NEW YORK -- The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission scolded Time Warner and the Walt Disney Co. for taking ABC off the air for 3.5 million customers, saying viewers shouldn't be held hostage to their dispute.
''This should never happen again,'' William Kennard said Tuesday, shortly after ABC's signal was restored following a 39-hour blackout.
Kennard's warning came after the corporate warriors put off, but didn't settle, their quarrel over what Disney would be paid to provide its cable channels to Time Warner customers.
Viewers became a part of the long-running dispute at 12:01 a.m. Monday, when ABC service was cut off for Time Warner customers in seven cities, including New York, Houston and Los Angeles. The blackout started a run on rabbit-ear antennas and satellite TV systems.
The truce came suddenly during a Tuesday news conference called by Time Warner Cable chairman Joseph Collins. He offered Disney a six-month extension to continue airing ABC's signal, putting off their fight over the cable channels.
Disney had earlier rejected an eight-month extension. Collins said ABC programming would not be restored until ABC had agreed to the extra time.
While he was talking, his remarks televised live by Time Warner-owned CNN, Disney executives faxed a statement saying they would agree to put off the dispute to July 15. Collins stepped away from the microphone to confer with his associates.
''We're going to accept this,'' he said.
Within a half hour, WABC-TV in New York was back on the air.
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