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Cablevision-Fox Battle: Customers File Suit

Cablevision and Fox's retransmission battle heats up as customers file a lawsuit demanding the cable company pay $450 million.



) --



and Fox's retransmission battle is heating up.

A group of Cablevision customers in New York filed a class action lawsuit against Cablevision in federal court on Thursday. The plaintiffs want the cable company to pay damages for not discounting their bills during the retransmission standoff, and for depriving them of Fox programming, such as

Fox News






The Simpsons

, New York Giants football, the major league baseball playoffs and the World Series.

Cablevision has been without

News Corporation's

(NWSA) - Get Report

Fox programming since their agreement expired on Oct. 15.

In the

Gallo v. Cablevision Systems

suit, the plaintiffs are asking for about $450 million in damages, which is about how much one month's cable bill for three million subscribers would be.

"News Corp. is the company that deserves a lawsuit, for blacking out the World Series in three million New York-area homes," Cablevision told the

Hollywood Reporter

in response to being hit with the lawsuit. "The Federal Communications Commission has all the facts and our customers are demanding that the FCC act to end the Fox blackout."

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On Wednesday Fox rejected Cablevision's offer to pay the same rate that Fox charges

Time Warner Cable


to carry Fox 5 in New York and Fox 29 in Philadelphia for one year.

Cablevision made the offer in an effort to bring the battle between the two companies to an end prior to the first game of the World Series, which started Wednesday evening.

Charles Schueler, Cablevision's executive vice president of communications, said News Corp. is "operating in bad faith."

"We call on the FCC to intervene immediately to restore the Fox signals to Cablevision's 3 million homes and order News Corp. to agree to binding arbitration to resolve this conflict," Schueler said.

Fox said it has negotiated in good faith, and called Cablevision's claims a "ploy" to get the government to step in.

"We have never made any 'take it or leave it' demands, nor are we asking for $150 million in fees," Fox said in a statement.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has expressed his disappointment in both companies from the start.

"I am deeply troubled that Cablevision and Fox are spending more time attacking each other through ads and lobbyists than sitting down at the negotiating table," Genachowski said in an October 19 statement. "The time for petty gamesmanship is over."

--Written by Theresa McCabe in Boston.

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