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Cablevision-WABC rhetoric continues as deadline looms

An eight-foot Oscar statue is unloaded in front

An eight-foot Oscar statue is unloaded in front of the New York Palace Hotel in New York, March 4, 2010. Two Oscar statues were delivered at the hotel as part of preparation for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences official New York Oscar Night celebration which will take place here on March 7, 2010. (Mar. 4, 2010) Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images

At least the rhetoric - if not negotiations - continues to move forward as the deadline looms for WABC / 7 to pull its signal and the Oscars off of Cablevision early Sunday morning.

Both companies traded barbed and unusually personal statements late Friday, with Cablevision, owner of Newsday, calling on Disney chief executive Bob Iger to end the standoff, and ABC telling Cablevision chief executive James Dolan to "stop slinging mud and start cutting a deal."

Both companies say they are girding for a 12:01 a.m. deadline Sunday, when ABC threatens to drop its signal, or 20 hours before one of the most important telecasts of the year. A blackout would affect some 3.1 million homes in the tristate area, although Cablevision subscribers in Connecticut would continue to have access to WTNH in New Haven.

Disney insists Cablevision should pay for use of the signal - a so-called retransmission fee. Cablevision (which says it already pays over $200 million a year for transmission of Disney's various networks) is balking at the $40 million surcharge Disney is seeking.

According to an ABC statement published in editions of The Wall Street Journal Friday, "Negotiations are ongoing, as they have been for two years, but we have yet to receive a fair offer." However, both companies Friday referred to their late-day statements, suggesting the brinkmanship has escalated.

"There is one man who is going to decide whether New York gets to see the Oscars, and that's Disney president and CEO Bob Iger," said a statement late Friday attributed to Cablevision's communications chief, Charles Schueler. "The switch is in Bob Iger's hands.''

Within the hour, ABC responded: "It's an insult to Cablevision customers that with literally hours to go before losing access to ABC7, Cablevision is personally attacking Disney executives," according to Rebecca Campbell, president of of Channel 7.


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