Just when some of us were growing more sympathetic to Time Warner Cable's fight with TV broadcasters over retransmission fees, one of the company's lobbyists makes a move that is sure to alienate many customers as well as Democratic lawmakers. According to a report by the blog The Hill, a TWC lobbyist sent an email last month to Republican staffers on Capitol Hill that pointed to an announcement from NBC News about a segment designed to help viewers get the most out of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. The TWC lobbyist wrote in the email: "Next time you think about helping the broadcasters — particularly the networks — read this…"
Making their clients' enemies look bad is part of what lobbyists do Republicans generally oppose Obamacare and the government has been shut down for six days as a result of the conflict. Meanwhile, TWC is trying to hold the line on the fees that television broadcasters charge cable and satellite distributors to retransmit their programming. These increases in retransmission fees are often passed down to subscribers, and a dispute over them with CBS prompted TWC to recently stop distributing that network's programming for a month. The issue could eventually be settled by Congress, and just in case that happens, it's obvious TWC's lobbyists are seeking support.
Wasting no time to defend NBC or punishing Time Warner Cable, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), a longtime supporter of the entertainment sector, wrote a letter last week to TWC CEO Glenn Britt and said: "A broadcaster has a public service obligation and should be informing viewers about the new options for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. On the other hand, a cable company should not be pandering to the worst instincts of the reckless Republican extremists that seem to be running the House of Representatives." A Time Warner Cable spokesman said the company plans to respond directly to Waxman.
The most surprising thing about this email is that someone, presumably from the GOP camp, leaked it and that a lobbyist would trust something this potentially embarrassing to an email. Whatever benefit TWC got out of knocking NBC to the Republicans was likely discounted by the fact that it likely alienated the Democrats — both on the Hill and among the company's customers.