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Copps Returns Program-Access Complaints To ALJ

Confirming a report in B&C, and in the first big move under acting chairman Michael Copps, the FCC has reversed the Media Bureau and returned a half-dozen program access complaints to an administrative law judge.

"We conclude that the factual determinations required to fairly adjudicate these matters are best resolved through hearings before an Administrative Law Judge, rather than solely through pleadings and exhibits as contemplated by the Media Bureau," the commission ruled in a decision issued late Tuesday.

The commission instructed the judge to issue a revised schedule of hearing and procedures accounting for any delays due to the Media Bureau's efforts to reclaim jurisdiction and try the complaints itself. It also dismissed as moot the various petitions to review or stay that Media Bureau decision.

While the upshot of the decision is to provide more time to decide the complaints, the commission also instructed the judge to decide them "as expeditiously as possible" without compromising fairness or due process.

The complaints were filed by Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, The NFL Network and Wealth TV against Cox, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

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