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Dolans ask hundreds of towns to review Altice cable franchise agreements

The Dolan family took another step in its ongoing legal battle against Altice USA Inc. on Jan. 15 by sending a letter to over 300 municipalities in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey asking them to review their cable franchise agreements with the cable company.

The letter comes on the heels of a September 2018 lawsuit against Altice from the Dolan family, which previously owned Cablevision Systems Corp. and sold it to Altice in 2016, alleging breach of contract from the deal. Additionally, the Dolan family requested a restraining order in October 2018 against Altice to prevent layoffs at News 12, a business segment acquired by Altice in the Cablevision deal and that operates local television stations.

In an attempt to prevent additional layoffs, the suit claims Altice violated its contractual obligations to enforce and operate News 12’s five-year business plan by cutting 70 positions in 2017 and stating that it intends to lay off an additional 10% of News 12 staff in each successive year.

"As the local franchising authority for cable TV services, you should be aware of these actions and consider whether Altice has breached similar commitments to you in your local franchise agreement or otherwise," the Dolan family wrote in the Jan. 15 letter. "Also, we urge you to evaluate how your community might be negatively affected if Altice were allowed to continue eliminating jobs and reducing local programming. You may want to determine whether Altice, as steward of News 12 and the local franchised cable operator in your area, is fully committed to meeting community needs and willing to cover issues of local importance."

Altice has called the lawsuit "completely without merit," and repeatedly expressed a commitment to the News 12 group. In September 2018, Altice announced plans to build new state-of-the-art studios for the News 12 group. The company also announced the expansion of its leadership team in its news division in September 2018.

"We continue to invest in News 12, the most watched TV network on Optimum, to deliver meaningful hyperlocal news coverage for our communities, and we are proud of our talented News 12 team for achieving growth in TV ratings, digital viewership and social media interactions in 2018," Altice said in a Jan. 15 statement.