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FCC Won't Reverse Arbitration Ruling in DirecTV/Armstrong Dispute

The Federal Communications Commission has declined to reverse an arbitration decision favoring cable operator Armstrong Utilities in a dispute over the price it has to pay for Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh.

The dispute between Armstrong and net owner DirecTV Sports Net Pittsburgh had gone to baseball-style arbitration (each side provides its best offer) per a condition in the FCC's 2008 order approving the sale of DirecTV from News Corp. to Liberty Media.

DirecTV in April had sought FCC media bureau review of that March 2011 arbitrators' decision that went in Armstrong's favor. The media bureau this week declined to reverse the arbitration decision, saying that "consistent with the arbitrator's decision, that the Armstrong final offer most closely approximates the fair market value of the programming carriage rights at issue."

The FCC had had a deadline of June 10, 2011, to make the decision, but gave itself an extra 60 days to review what it said was the substantial record in a complicated arbitration decision.

The bureau also sent the parties an unredacted version of their decision and asked the parties to take out only what was absolutely necessary before the FCC made the document public, giving them until Aug. 17 to make the redactions but "to refrain from proposing redactions of information that has been previously disclosed to the public."

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.