NFL Seeks Clarification On FCC Media Bureau's Decision

The NFL has asked for clarification that the FCC Media Bureau's decision to speed up the adjudication of program access complaints against a number of cable operators also applies to a complaint filed against Comcast by the NFL.
The NFL complaint was one of a half-dozen initially referred to an FCC administrative law judge, but was not mentioned in the Media Bureau's decision to preempt that process after a judge said the bureau's 60-day deadline was not enough time for a fair hearing, which he also said would start from scratch without the Bureau's tentative conclusion that the operators had discriminated against the programmers in favor of their own programming.

In a motion for clarification filed with the FCC Monday, the NFL said:

"The December Order does not appear to apply formally to [complaint] File No. CSR-7876-P, to which NFL Enterprises LLC and Comcast Cable Communications, LLC are parties. Nonetheless, the December Order makes clear that “the ALJ's authority to issue a recommended decision...expired after Dec. 9, 2008”; the reasoning and holding of the Order strongly suggest that “the Media Bureau will proceed to resolve the above captioned program carriage dispute[] without the benefit of a recommended decision from the ALJ.” (December Order at 16, 2.) We would appreciate the Media Bureau’s confirming that our understanding is correct."

The NFL is all for a swift resolution. "NFL Enterprises LLC continues to seek a fair, prompt and efficient resolution of its claim of discrimination by Comcast in violation of the program carriage rules," wrote NFL lawyers. "We are also mindful of Congressional intent that the Commission resolve such proceedings expeditiously."

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin attempted to adopt program access complaint rule changes to put a shot clock on FCC complaint-resolution and otherwise speed and tighten the process, but it was pulled from the Dec. 18 meeting after a pair of powerful legislators asked him to confine the commission to DTV-related issues and ones with statutory deadelines.

In fact, Comcast cited that congressional request in asking why the FCC was putting the pedal to the metal on the complaints rather than sticking to those congressional instructions.

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.