Knesset panel seeks to keep CNN on HOT

HOT is set to drop CNN effective this Thursday, unless a revised agreement is reached.

CNN off the air 224 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
CNN off the air 224 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Calling the issue a "public matter," the Knesset Economics Committee summoned representatives of HOT Television and CNN to a special committee session on Monday in a last ditch effort to prevent HOT from dropping broadcasts of the international news channel. "While the Knesset cannot force HOT and CNN to come to an agreement, it is important for them to know that this is an issue which greatly concerns the public as two-thirds of all television subscriptions are with HOT," said MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz). "It also would make the country look bad for its largest cable provider to not carry CNN." Contract negotiations between HOT and CNN have essentially come to a standstill, as the 24-hour news channel contends that it has yet to receive a "serious" offer from HOT, which, under CEO David Kamenitz, has embarked on an aggressive cost-cutting campaign that seeks to lower company expenses by 30 percent to 40%. HOT is set to drop CNN effective this Thursday, unless a revised agreement is reached. Earlier this month, HOT refused to match the terms of its previous contract with CNN, saying expectations that it do so were "unrealistic" because CNN had lost its status as the top-rated news network to Fox News. In 2002, Fox passed CNN as the most-watched cable news network. While the Knesset cannot legally intervene in the HOT-CNN dispute, committee Chairman Gilad Erdan (Likud) requested that HOT extend the deadline until November 10 in order to give the two sides an opportunity to arrive at an agreement. HOT will make a decision to accept or reject Erdan's request by Tuesday, a company official told The Jerusalem Post. Meanwhile, Yossi Lubaton, HOT's vice president of marketing, told the committee that the company would like to keep CNN in its broadcasting lineup. "We do not want to lose a channel with the international recognition of CNN, but at the same time, they are the only foreign news channel who refuses to come to an agreement with us," citing a number of news channels, such as BBC, Sky news and Fox news, which have already negotiated new contracts with HOT. CNN's legal representative and lead negotiator, Dov Abramowitz, however, said that despite presenting the appearance of wanting to reach a settlement, HOT is not interested in talking. "I have been running after HOT for six months now to set up a meeting between the two sides and have made numerous offers, but not once has HOT made us a counter-offer," he said. Following the committee meeting, Abramowitz said he met with Lubaton to try and restart the stalled negotiations, however, it seemed that the effort was in vain. "It is clear that HOT does not want to broadcast CNN any longer - during our meeting Lubaton was constantly interrupting the discussions to deal with other things," Abramowitz told the Post. The two sides did not have any further meetings scheduled. Last week, HOT announced that it has entered into negotiations with Al-Jazeera's English channel to serve as a replacement for CNN and said it expects to conclude negotiations with the station around the time that CNN goes off the air.