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Class Slams Cablevision for Blackout

MANHATTAN (CN) - Unhappy customers demand $450 million from Cablevision, claiming its failure to negotiate a new broadcast agreement with nonparty News Corp. is preventing them from watching the World Series, New York Giants football, and other shows. In a federal class action, the class claims Cablevision has ignored complaints and requests for rebates for services they paid for in advance.

The plaintiffs seek damages equal to one month's billings. The $450 million is based on an average $150 per month paid by each of Cablevision's estimated 3 million customers. They also seek punitive damages for consumer fraud and unjust enrichment.

Instead of getting to watch programs such as American Idol and The Simpsons subscribers tuning into News Corp. channels say they are shown "a self-serving loop, which whines about News Corp.'s supposed failure to negotiate in good faith."

In addition to denying them entertainment for which they already have paid, the class claims Cablevision has deprived them of Fox's "distinctive viewpoint in the political speech arena."

News Corp.'s local channels in New York and Philadelphia, including WNYW aka Fox 5, WWOR aka the My9 Channel, WTXF aka Fox 29, Fox Business, National Geographic Wild, and Fox Deportes, were yanked off Cablevision's system on Oct. 16, during a bitter battle over a new carriage agreement.

Cablevision responded to the lawsuit with a written statement that states, "News Corp. is the company that deserves a lawsuit, for blacking out the World Series in three million New York-area homes. The [Federal Communications Commission] has all the facts and our customers are demanding that the FCC act to end the Fox blackout."

The class is represented by Todd J. Krouner of Chappaqua. A similar class action was filed this week in Nassau County Court, Mineola, on Long Island.

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