Comcast merger contingent on MASN arbitration

RFtech

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Oct 25, 2005
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House members want Comcast merger contingent on MASN arbitration

WASHINGTON - Three Washington-area House members asked the Federal Communications Commission to make Comcast Corp.'s proposed merger with Adelphia Communications Corp. contingent on Comcast submitting a dispute over airing of Washington Nationals baseball games to binding arbitration.

The proposal Wednesday by Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., James Moran, D-Va., and Albert Wynn, D-Md., was the latest effort by federal and local officials to resolve the dispute with the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network that prevents 1.3 million Nationals fans from seeing most games on TV.

The region's largest cable provider has refused to carry MASN, which controls the rights to most Nationals games, because of a dispute with Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos over television rights to the Orioles and control of the region's sports programming market.

Major League Baseball helped Angelos create MASN as compensation for having a competing franchise 35 miles from its home market. Angelos plans to move Orioles telecasts to the network next season after their deal with Comcast SportsNet expires. Comcast believes its contract was improperly terminated.

"This dispute has denied millions of fans the opportunity to follow their team on a day-to-day basis," the lawmakers said in a statement.

The House passed a resolution last week asking the FCC to act on a year-old complaint against Comcast by MASN, and District of Columbia Mayor Anthony A. Williams signed a measure in May urging the two sides to work things out. The dispute was also the topic of a congressional hearing in April. However, this is the first attempt to use the proposed merger as a bargaining tool.

Time Warner Inc. and Comcast are seeking to acquire the assets of the bankrupt Adelphia in a deal estimated to be worth $17 billion.

Wynn said MASN and Comcast have an obligation to resolve the issue in part because public funds were used to move a team to Washington. Williams and other city officials believe a 41,00-seat, $611 million ballpark projected to open in 2008 will spur economic development in its Southeast Washington neighborhood.

"It is important that fans have the opportunity to benefit from the public money that was spent to bring the team here," he said.

"We're pulling out all the stops on this," Moran said. "The FCC is certainly within its rights to try to settle this."

Comcast Executive Vice President David L. Cohen blamed the Orioles for the dispute.

"Unlike the Orioles, Comcast has always supported the return of major league baseball to Washington and we have proposed multiple solutions to resolve this issue. We continue to seek a resolution that protects our customers and Nationals fans to get the Nationals games on TV as quickly as possible," he said in a written statement.

FCC spokesman David Fiske said the commission does not comment on pending matters and a spokesman for Davis was not available for comment Wednesday. MASN spokesman Todd Webster said officials needed to study the proposal before commenting.
 
Peter Parker

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the thread title and the story don't quite match.
 

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