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Amy Maclean

The punditry on cable news networks often takes the blame for the growing divide between the left and right. But days after a presidential election full of partisan bickering, Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren pointed a finger at another culprit.

“In the old days, when you couldn’t travel back to your district every weekend, [members of Congress] would have more time together. Now they all leave immediately. They don’t know each other at all. They just know each other as villains,” she said.

That got me thinking about the sometimes cantankerous negotiations between distributors and programmers, which arguably have gotten worse over the years. And over those years, the number of industry events and gatherings has dwindled. Some still exist, such as the Virginia Cable & Telecommunications Association’s annual conference, where Van Susteren made those remarks. But the days of breaking bread at the White House in Anaheim during the Western Show or teeing up on the golf course at a CTAM chapter event are over. Don’t even get us started on all the chili we’ve missed out on after the Texas Show folded. Van Susteren praised the CODELs, those congressional delegation trips to other countries, because it forces members to spend time together and get to know one another. Sound familiar?

It’s always business. But creating real friendships on the other side of the aisle (or distribution coin) makes for trust. When your friend says “this is honestly the best we can do,” you’re more likely to believe them. Cable has a reputation for being especially collegial. Some would argue that feeling has waned over the years. No, the demise of industry gatherings aren’t solely to blame for heated negotiations—just like a member of Congress taking a shuttle back to her home district didn’t cause the fiscal cliff. But it should serve as a reminder to everyone to pick up the phone or return that email, and remember how things used to be. Because if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that we don’t want a Washington-sized gridlock in the industry.

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