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Until the 1990s, advertising and fees from local affiliates supported all four of the nation’s main broadcast networks – ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox.

But advertising income has plunged, and by 2008 cable-only producers took in almost 39 percent of TV ad revenue, which broadcasters used to have to themselves. So the networks are increasingly dependent on the license fees they began charging cable providers in 1994.

Fox didn’t get all it wanted, but Chase Carey, chief operating officer at News Corp., said Friday the agreement “recognizes the value of our programming.”

Time Warner continued to carry Food Network and Great American Country as its talks with Scripps went on.

And cable company Mediacom Communications Corp. will keep carrying Fox and CBS signals from Sinclair Broadcasting Group Inc. stations in markets such as Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in a temporary deal that extends to next Friday.

Telephone messages left for Sinclair and Mediacom on Saturday were not immediately returned.

The standoffs refocused attention on the law that let broadcasters start charging fees cable and satellite operators for their programs.

Advocacy groups and some politicians oppose the 1994 law because it lets both cable operators and content producers pass along to consumers the cost of programs they could watch for free when broadcast dominated the television market.

“I think there needs to be some sort of government oversight over the cable industry,” Mindy Spatt, spokeswoman for The Utility Reform Network, a San Francisco consumer advocacy group, said Saturday. “There’s a danger for consumers that the price is just going to keep rising with no end in sight.”

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said in a statement that broadcasters and cable operators should be able to reach terms without “consumers being put in the cross hairs.”

The prospect of lawmakers stepping in to take action ultimately may have persuaded Fox to settle, according to Time Warner Cable.

“Engagement by key policy makers … focused on protecting consumers, was instrumental in preventing unnecessary consumer disruption,” said company spokeswoman Maureen Huff.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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