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Latest Salvos: Dolan Plays FCC Card Again; Fox’s Cease-And-Desist Letter

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Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) subscribers sans Fox since Oct. 15 have been getting plenty of advice from the cable operator and the programmer about how to get around that pesky blackout over retrans rights including how to use an antenna (both) and change pay TV providers (Fox). But Fox says Cablevision went a step too far by telling people to get its programming illegally — and today delivered a cease-and-desist demand to the operator.

The letter follows a conversation between a Fox employee, who is a Cablevision customer, and a Cablevision rep that the employee recorded and “somehow”: wound up with the NY Daily News. On the call, the rep explains how to find live sports online at sites that don’t have the rights to carry them and tell the Fox employee a “team” at Cablevision is trying to find free online alternatives.

The story drew a now-familiar refrain from Cablevision that News Corp (NSDQ: NWS). restore programming and agree to binding arbitration. Fox went another route, sending a letter to Cablevision CEO James Dolan demanding that the operator immediately desist “inducing” and contributing to copyright theft. In fluent legalese, the programmer also threatens legal action.

Gotta think at this point Cablevision would love for Fox to sue.

Update: Cablevision CEO James Dolan reiterated the need for the FCC to mediate the conflict in a letter he sent Tuesday afternoon to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski. He called on Genachowski to convene a meeting Wednesday in Washington D.C. with himself and News Corp. deputy chairman Chase Carey.

“And I will commit to you that I will come ready with new, constructive offers, prepared to reach agreement tomorrow,” Dolan wrote.

Not to be outdone, Michael Hopkins, president of affiliate sales and marketing at Fox Networks Group, fired off his own letter to the FCC rebutting Cablevision’s contention that Fox was not negotiating “in good faith.”

As Hopkins concluded in the seven-page memo, “Once Cablevision realizes that it has to negotiate with Fox, rather than the government, they will hopefully come back to the table and begin negotiating again in earnest.”

More as warranted.