JERUSALEM, Nov. 5, 2007 — -- Israel's largest cable TV service has taken CNN off its programming list.
The cable provider HOT took CNN away from its Israeli viewers Oct. 31 as a result of a disagreement over costs. In its place it has provided Fox News as a temporary replacement.
Yossi Lubaton, HOT's vice president of marketing, said: "It's an economic issue. Most of the internationally famous news channels — Sky, BBC and Fox — for all of them the cost is significantly lower than CNN."
That claim is disputed by Hagit Mendes, CNN's spokeswoman in Israel.
"HOT presented us with an ultimatum on Oct. 30 demanding a 30 percent reduction in the cost of showing CNN, which was totally unacceptable. We do not respond to ultimatums," she said to ABC News on Sunday.
Mendes confirmed that there are currently no negotiations to restore CNN, but added, "we're hoping that changes."
HOT is engaged in a significant cost-cutting exercise, attempting to reduce running costs by 30 percent.
Local media reports suggest HOT is preparing to replace CNN with Al Jazeera International, the English language partner of the Qatar-based Arabic network.
In the past the global news provider has attracted criticism in Israel for perceived imbalance in its news coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But both sides in the current dispute deny the decision to drop CNN has anything to do with CNN's editorial content.
"Israeli viewers value our product as the leading international news channel," Mendes said.
For now, CNN hopes that pressure from disgruntled HOT subscribers will force HOT into taking a more flexible approach in any resumed negotiations.