A battle over programming fees between Time Warner Cable and CBS prompted Time Warner officials today to block broadcasts of CBS-owned television stations KCBS and KCAL and the Showtime network.

At about 2:20 p.m., Time Warner stopped showing “The Doctors” on KCBS2 and an afternoon news broadcast on KCAL9.

The shows were replaced by a written notice claiming that CBS was asking Time Warner for excessive fees to air its programming.

“CBS has demanded an outrageous increase for programming that CBS delivers free over the air and online, requiring us to remove their stations from your lineup while we continue to negotiate for fair and reasonable terms,” the notice said. “We regret this inconvenience, but feel it is crucial that we we let CBS know that we’re willing to do what it takes to keep down the price of TV.”

Time Warner Public Relations Manager Bret Picciolo said in a written statement that CBS has been unreasonable during negotiations.

“We agreed to an extension on Tuesday morning with the expectation that we would engage in a meaningful negotiation with CBS,” Picciolo said.

“Since then, CBS has refused to have a productive discussion. It’s become clear that no matter how much time we give them, they’re not willing to come to reasonable terms.”

CBS’ corporate headquarters in New York City released a statement challenging Time Warner’s claims.

“We deeply regret this ill-advised action, which is injurious not only to our many affected viewers, but also to Time Warner Cable itself,” the statement said. “Throughout this process, Time Warner Cable has conducted negotiations in a combative and non-productive spirit, indulging pointless brinksmanship and distorted public positioning.”

The statement also derides Time Warner’s decision to drop Showtime along with the television outlet, calling it “a move that is completely unnecessary and totally punitive to its subscribers.”

The media giants have been in negotiations for weeks over programming fees. As the talks stalled, Time Warner last weekend threatened to black out both TV stations and Showtime, but delayed the move until now.

John Woolard | City News Service