Mayor Carty Finkbeiner has turned down a request by a local cable company to handle its negotiations with Univision, Toledo's only Spanish-language cable channel.
“I am not taking sides in this dispute,” the mayor wrote yesterday in a letter to David Huey, president and general manager of Buckeye CableSystem. “My concern is, as always, the quality of life of the citizens of Toledo. I once again urge both parties to this matter to explore paths to successfully conclude your negotiations with Univision.”
Univision, which offers news, sports, and soap operas to Spanish-speaking viewers, has threatened to cut its service to the Toledo area at the end of today unless Buckeye agrees to pay more than $100,000 annually. For the first time in 10 years, Univision wants to start charging Buckeye for the programming.
Mr. Huey has said that Buckeye does not want to have to pass that cost onto its customers. He added that the charges would be unfair because Univision does not charge for programming in 32 other U.S. cities, including New York, Miami, and Los Angeles.
Local Hispanic leaders and the mayor have urged the cable company to keep the channel and have said that Buckeye must be willing to pay something.
In his letter to Buckeye, Mr. Finkbeiner said: “... I appreciate your confidence and support. However, for me to accept your empty offer at this eleventh hour, without any real negotiating authority, one day before Univision's signal will end due to your inability to negotiate a settlement, would be letting CableSystem off the hook. Negotiating is your job!”
Mr. Huey responded last night: “We regret that the mayor, having damaged our ability to negotiate a fair deal with Univision, has decided he doesn't want to fix the problem.
“Still,” he continued, “we appreciate the mayor's belated recognition that negotiating programming contracts is our job, not his, and we hope he'll stay out of it in the future.”
Mr. Huey said the question of whether Univision will continue to be available in the Toledo area is up to the Univision.
No matter what happens, he said, Buckeye is committed to providing some form of Spanish-language programming.
Univision officials have declined comment on the matter.
Buckeye CableSystem and The Blade are both owned by Block Communications, Inc.