Calif. Dems Want FCC to Umpire Dodgers Dispute

A number of Democrat members of Congress from California have asked the FCC to step in and mediate the dispute between Time Warner Cable and various distributors over carriage of the L.A. Dodgers, saying that they fear it could set a precedent for "vertically integrated companies to hold consumers hostage to asert unfair market dominance."

The letter comes as AT&T is trying to get Washington approval of its deal to buy DirecTV and Comcast wants the OK to merge with Time Warner Cable.

Time Warner Cable launched SportsNet LA in February, but a bunch of distributors complained about the price — some reports put is as high as $4 per sub per month — especially when combined with three other RSNs in the market (Prime Ticket, Fox Sports LA and Time Warner Cable SportsNet) and aren't taking the network.

In the letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheelerthe legislators said they were increasingly concerned about the absence of the net on Cox, Charter, Suddenlink, Dish, DirecTV, Fios (Verizon) and U-verse (AT&T).

They said at midpoint in the season, baseball fans remained in the dark, as well as unable to hear the iconic voice of sportscaster Vin Scully calling the games.

"The ongoing stalemate between Time Warner Cable and other pay-TV providers has reached a point where mediation by the FCC is necessary," they said. "Ensuring that homes throughout Los Angeles County have access to the broadcast of Dodgers games regardless of which cable or satellite company provides service in their areas is very important."

An FCC spokesperson was checking on whether the chairman had received the letter at press time, but the commission is historically very reluctant to get in the middle of carriage disputes, even at the behest of Congress, beyond keeping in touch with the parties or adding its voice to th call for resolution in the interests of consumers.

Signing on to the letter were Reps. Tony Cárdenas, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Alan Lowenthal, Brad Sherman, Linda Sánchez Julia Brown, Janice Hanh and Judy Chu.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.