A Rocky Horror Picture Show For TV Viewers

Endless Fox-Cablevision dispute threatens not only the "Glee" Halloween special and World Series – it threatens to drive away viewers in the long run.

There's lots happening on Fox this week: Tuesday brings the long awaited (two weeks!) return of "Glee" with a heavily hyped "Rocky Horror"-themed episode, just in time for Halloween.

If campy musicals aren't your thing, then there's the World Series, which starts Wednesday and marks the last gasp for those of us who believe football season doesn't really start until the final out of the Fall Classic. Speaking of football, how about those Jets, who are set to play the Green Bay Packers on Fox Sunday?

But whether 3.1 million New York metropolitan area Cablevision subscribers – denied local Fox stations for more than a week, thanks to a pricing dispute – will get to see any of it is anybody’s guess.

Even if Fox is the apparent bad guy in this case – reportedly demanding an $80 million a year increase in fees – there's no one to root for in this moronic morass.

Which huge company is in the right doesn’t really matter to frustrated customers: At a time when network TV is losing viewers, it's in nobody's interest to drive more away, especially with the Internet already drawing folks from the tube.

There’s no direct online relief, either: those of us who also get our broadband from Cablevision can't access Fox shows via Hulu. Buying an antenna means more expense and aggravation, and makes feel like we're living in, well, a time warp.

This is not just a New York problem – other cable outfits also have fought similar battles elsewhere, but nothing quite this drawn out and infuriating. Depending on how the Fox-Cablevision fight plays out, we could be in for more of this nonsense.

The feds haven’t been much help, amid competing interpretations of the scope of Federal Communications Commission’s power, as The New York Times points out. The mess is spurring calls for reform. Still, Monday began with an FCC dictum to both sides to negotiate in good faith and ended with the same loop of blame-Fox messages on Cablevision channels instead of the latest “House.”

Meanwhile, as The Wall Street Journal reported, the latest front in the skirmishes affecting how we get programming is Google TV: ABC, CBS and NBC turned off full access to web videos via the service, which lets viewers access Internet video through television sets.

All of this is dangerous game of chicken – which reminds us of the giant chicken who occasionally battles Peter on "Family Guy," another top Fox show we’ll be without if the Cablevision impasse drags out.

We've gotten to the sorry point where consumers get less service, in some respects, paying for TV than when it cost nothing. That's a real rocky horror picture show – without any glee to be found.

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NY City News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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