DirecTV/RSN Skirmish Surfaces at FCC

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Sep 8, 2003
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The Federal Communications Commission proceeding concerning News Corp.'s proposed takeover of DirecTV has ignited a skirmish between developing regional sports network Victory Sports and the satellite TV service.

In its efforts at the FCC, Victory Sports, an affiliate of the Minnesota Twins baseball franchise, filed a letter from DirecTV stating the satellite TV company declined an offer to carry the network for free through March 6, 2004. DirecTV said in a letter it dismissed Victory's free offer since "there could be substantial customer frustration should we choose to discontinue carriage of the service after the free period."

Victory told the FCC that during November it offered all distributors, including DirecTV, to carry its service without charge during the college basketball season. The programmer said the free period was given to allow time to complete carriage negotiations before start of the Major League Baseball season.

Victory said it's concerned that News Corp.'s "plan of attack" on its channel is aimed at scuttling distribution. The network added that in its discussions with an unnamed pay-TV service, the provider was told "the issue of carriage of Fox North would come up in the retransmission consent negotiations for Fox broadcast content," Victory said. Fox North delivers regional sports content in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

"More importantly, DirecTV has given only a passing response to Victory's inquiries and expressed no desire to negotiate or discuss distribution of the Victory RSN," the programmer said.

In response, DirecTV's Bob Marsocci said, "We have a long standing policy of not carrying networks without a contractual agreement."

As for proposed remedies tied to the News Corp./DirecTV transaction, Victory said arbitration for content distribution abuses "is a wholly inadequate solution
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