Tag Archives: negotiations

Sports lovers cry foul after MSG blackout


| brennison@queenscourier.com


If a game is played and no one is able to watch it, did it really happen?

More than one million sports fans have faced off with this problem after MSG was dropped from the Time Warner Cable lineup on January 1.

The sports network and Time Warner are more than two weeks into their standoff leaving Knicks, Rangers, Islanders and Devils fans in the lurch.

The dispute is over licensing fees that cable companies pay networks in order to carry their channel.  MSG wants more than Time Warner is offering and Time Warner is not willing to pay what MSG is asking.

Time Warner’s senior vice president, Mike Angus, said the two companies reached a deal last year that was agreed to by both sides — but claimed MSG reneged on the deal.

The network said that Time Warner rejected every offer made over two years — never having a deal in place.

While talks have broken off, Time Warner spokesperson Eric Mangan said the company is waiting for MSG to come back to the negotiating table.

“It’s all propaganda. Obviously in commercials Time Warner and MSG are going to say the opposite of each other. Is it really a 53 percent increase, is it not? Who knows? It’s all slanted one way or another,” said Queens resident Steven Cohen, referring to Time Warner’s claim that MSG asked for a 53 percent increase in their licensing fee.

The cable company called MSG’s demands way out of line.  “We are looking out for the interests of out customers,” a spokesperson said.

“All we have asked is for Time Warner Cable to value our programming in the same way as other TV providers — nothing more, nothing less,” MSG Media President Michael Bair said.

MSG is owned by Madison Square Garden, Inc. which is chaired by Knicks and Rangers owner James Dolan.

The city’s comptroller called a foul on Time Warner for blacking out city sports fans.

“As this dispute continues, 1.3 million city residents are left without the programming they paid for,” Comptroller John Liu said.  “The least they could get is a break on their cable bill.”

Liu sent a letter to Glenn Britt, CEO of Time Warner Cable, urging the company to rebate $5.95 — the price of the Time Warner Cable Sports Pass.

“I pay all that money for cable so I could watch the Knicks, and now they say I can’t,” said Knicks fan Chris Lerner as he waited for the LIRR in Bayside.  “Going to games isn’t an option because tickets are through the roof. How much money does MSG need?”

“Customers are understandably frustrated that they are forced to pay for channels they do not receive, particularly when many customers do not have access to another cable television provider,” Liu wrote in the letter.

Funding for failing schools suspended


| mchan@queenscourier.com


Federal funds for the city’s failing schools are on the line following negotiation deadlocks between the city and the union.

Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. announced on January 3 that he has suspended “School Improvement Grant” (SIG) funding throughout the state. The $60 million in SIG grants would have provided “adequate resources” — including extra instructors and materials — for the city’s lowest-performing schools.

“Sadly, the adults in charge of the city’s schools have let the students down,” King said. “This is beyond disappointing. The failure to reach agreements on evaluations leaves thousands of students mired in the same educational morass. Until the grown-ups in charge start acting that way, it won’t be a very happy New Year for the students at the SIG schools in the city.”

The suspension came shortly after Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott wrote to King, declaring disagreements in several key negotiations with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) regarding teacher evaluations.

In order to receive the funding, Walcott and the UFT had five months to agree to “implement a comprehensive and meaningful teacher evaluation system” for the state’s 44 failing schools.

However, the two parties clashed on ideas “almost every step of the way,” Walcott said in a statement, including basic negotiations over appointing arbitrators to handle cases.

“Our goal is to ensure that we have the best teachers in our classrooms. Unfortunately, the union is more interested in setting up procedural roadblocks to protect the very worst performing teachers,” Walcott said. “This disagreement — regarding both policy and principles — leads me to conclude that we will not be able to come to an agreement on a fair and progressive teacher evaluation system.”

According to UFT President Michael Mulgrew, the agreement — that has not yet been reached — must focus on creating a process to help teachers improve their performance by providing them with feedback on the specific classroom issues that need to be addressed, among other resources.

“Teachers look forward to the opportunity to improve their practice. If the DOE’s major focus is on penalizing its employees for their perceived shortcomings rather than to devise a process that will help all teachers improve, it is doing a disservice to the schools and the children they serve,” Mulgrew said.

Several struggling schools in Queens could suffer from negotiation stalemates, including The Law, Government and Community Service High School in Cambria Heights, which was the lowest scoring school in the borough and falls in the bottom 6.7 percentile of city high schools.

Other low-performing schools like Flushing High School, Richmond Hill High School and August Martin High School in Jamaica received a “D” during the most recent progress report, as well as Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village and Pan American International High School in Elmhurst.