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MASN Gets Assist From FCC

Not everyone is anxious to be singled out by the FCC, but Mid Atlantic Sports Network was thrilled.

Though it got dozens of program access filings in its review of the Adelphia merger, according to MASN spokesman Todd Webster, the FCC chose to make arbitration for MASN's carriage battle with Comcast a specific condition of its approval Thursday of the merger of Adelphia with Comcast and Time Warner.

Of course, the battle is over carriage of Washington National's baseball games to Washington, a point that had not escaped legislators pressuring the FCC to do something about the impasse that has kept most of the games out of hundreds of thousands of Washington area homes.

Comcast and MASN must now submit their dispute to binding arbitration. That is not an ironclad guarantee, but if the arbitrator concludes the impasse is unwarranted, then the two sides each submit their best deal and the arbitrator picks one.

If the Nationals do get wider carriage, they have new commissioner Robert McDowell partly to thank for it, who pushed for that condition and pushed the FCC bureaucracy to speed up its handling of program access disputes, saying the FCC had been "left to rot in some lost crypt inside this building."