SBD/October 8, 2012/Media

FCC Lifts Requirement For Cable Companies To Sell RSNs To Competing TV Providers

Sports fans “face the growing threat of being cut off from watching their favorite teams on television” after federal regulators “relaxed rules for the sharing of programming between rival pay-TV providers,” according to Amy Schatz of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Cable companies that own RSNs had until now been “required to sell the channels to competitors like satellite broadcasters on reasonable terms.” That rule expired Friday and the FCC "unanimously agreed not to renew it.” Instead, competitors will have to “file individual complaints if they feel a cable operator is unfairly denying access to a channel.” The FCC said that cable providers “now own or co-own 57 regional sports networks, up from 18 in 2007.” Companies “calling for an extension of the rule” included satellite broadcasters DirecTV and Dish Network, as well as smaller cable operators and phone companies AT&T and Verizon, which “both offer pay-TV service.” Google "joined them, arguing that large cable companies have an incentive to block access to regional sports channels to stifle competition.” Comcast, Time Warner Cable and other large cable operators “argued the rules had become obsolete because the pay-TV market is now more competitive.” The FCC said that it would “tackle any complaints within six months and put the burden of proof in disputes over channel access on cable operators” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/6).
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