LI business and political leaders mixed on Newsday deal


10:36 AM EDT, May 12, 2008

Long Island business and political leaders offered mixed reactions Monday to news that Cablevision Systems Corp., the largest provider of cable television in the metropolitan area, had agreed to acquire Newsday, the only daily paper based on the Island.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), said he favored the deal.

“Chuck Dolan is Long Island,” King said in a phone interview. “It’s a step forward. I feel Chuck Dolan (Cablevision’s chairman) will bring a professionalism and integrity that’s been sorely lacking” under Chicago-based Tribune Corp., which agreed to sell Newsday.

“It’s good news because it ensures that Long Island has a separate newspaper,” King said. “Long Island is its own entity, and Chuck Dolan understands Long Island.”

Other bidders for Newsday had included News Corp., owned by media baron Rupert Murdoch, and Morton Zuckerman, a real-estate magnate in Manhattan who owns the Daily News and U.S. News & World magazine.

Jaci Clement, executive director of the Fair Media Council, a Long Island-based organization that follows broadcast and print media, said the deal was not a good one for readers or advertisers.

“To have our major media voice all controlled by one outlet limits the amount of news and diversity,” Clement said. “When it comes to advertising, this is monopolistic and probably shuts out the 80,000 small businesses on the Island.”

But Irwin Kellner, chief economist for Capital One Bank, which has a large presence on Long Island, said the deal bodes well for both Newsday and Cablevision.

“I think it’s great,” said Kellner, who is also an economist for “It’s great for Newsday because it reduces the possibility of layoffs due to the overlap of journalists” that might have been the case if Newsday had been bought by News Corp., which owns the New York Post, or by Zuckerman.

“I also think it’s great for Cablevision because it gives them another media outlet and provides advertising synergy and a chance to broaden their customer base. I think it’s a win-win situation.”

Dennis Grabhorn, president of the Graphic Communications Conference, Local 406, which represents Newsday print-shop, delivery and editorial workers, took a cautious view on the deal.

“I would rather have a newspaper person taking control of Newsday” Grabhorn said. “But any owner willing to put the time and money to put Newsday back as one of the best newspapers in the country, I’m for it.”

“But if they (Cablevision) come in with the same attitude as Tribune and the same business philosophy, I don’t see this newspaper changing at all. I think it will just slip away.”

Kevin Kamen, president of media appraisal firm Kamen & Co. Group Services in Baldwin, said in an email Monday morning that the deal will allow Cablevision “a clear channel opportunity to expand and cross sell advertising across multiple broad channels…and will generate great financial rewards and benefits over the years.”

But, he said, while the deal will “please” shareholders, “unfortunately for the consumer, both editorially and financially, it is never a good idea to let one media conglomerate control pricing and editorial content.”

Staff Writer John Valenti contributed to this story.