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FCC Stays Portion of MSG Program Carriage Mandate

MSG Holdings will not have to start making the HD feeds of its regional sports networks (RSNs) available to Verizon and AT&T until at least Nov. 14, the FCC says, but has to strike a carriage deal by Oct. 22.

On Sept. 22, the Media Bureau ruled that Cablevision/Madison Square Garden Network violated the agency's program-access rules by withholding HD versions of MSG and MSG-Plus from Verizon and AT&T, which it said was an "unfair act" that "had the effect" of "significantly hindering AT&T [and Verizon] from providing a competing video service."

It gave MSG 30 days, or until Oct. 22, to strike a carriage deal on reasonable terms and conditions for HD carriage.

On Sept. 28, Cablevision and MSG appealed the decision and asked the FCC to stay the order pending that review, arguing it would cause "irreparable harm" to have to deliver the RSN programming per the order.

The Media Bureau decided not to stay the entire order, saying that the parties still had to strike a deal by the October deadline. But it said it would stay the order to the extent that carriage did not actually have to start until at least Nov. 14 to give it time to consider the petition for review.
"We are pleased the FCC staff has issued a stay of its decision so the full FCC can review the serious concerns we have raised," said Cablevision in a statement. "As we have said, the record evidence clearly demonstrates there has been no competitive harm to the nation's two largest phone companies as a result of not having two HD channels they already receive in SD. We continue to believe that in a highly competitive marketplace that Verizon and AT&T should be required to compete based on the quality of their products and not by manipulating federal law."