Cox Communications is feeling the squeeze of a Federal Communications Commission ruling earlier this year that is forcing the cable operator to license its Channel 4 in San Diego, which includes Padres baseball games, to rivals AT&T, Dish Network and DirecTV.

Yesterday, Cox hired Fox Networks to negotiate the licensing fees for Channel 4, which also includes local shows such as “San Diego Insider Magazine” and “Shades of San Diego.”

“If our competitors decide to distribute Channel 4 San Diego, they will need to do so in its entirety so all customers of Channel 4 San Diego will be exposed to all the award-winning programming, Cox commercials and San Diego Padres broadcasts,” Cox spokesman Todd Smith wrote in an e-mail to CED this morning. “Any deal for distribution rights would also include providing access to the HD signal of Channel 4 San Diego.”

In January, the FCC voted to change regulations in its federal law that gave Cox and other cable operators exclusive rights to sports programming on channels they developed. Cox’s competitors have maintained that Cox’s exclusive rights to Padres games hampered their ability to sign up new customers in San Diego.

Comcast and Cablevision are in the same boat as Cox, and recently Comcast gave Verizon access to its Comcast Network, which includes sports programming, in the Philadelphia area.

Since the negotiations just started, Smith said it was difficult to say if they would be completed during the current Major League Baseball season.

Smith also pointed out that AT&T benefits from its exclusive deal with Apple for its iPhone while DirecTV claims exclusive rights to distribute NFL Sunday Ticket.

“Cox has filed with the FCC asking the FCC to apply the new rules on exclusive programming contracts, such as DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket, so that there is a level playing field in the distribution of popular sports content,” Smith wrote in his e-mail.

More Broadband Direct 6/16/10:
•  CED Blog: Smoke monsters
•  Cox will play ball with rivals over broadcast of Padres games
•  Cox launches Epix and Vutopia nationwide
•  SCTE forms green technology committee
•  Rovi sets up ads on program guides
•  T-Mobile expands HSPA+ coverage
•  iPhone 4 backordered
•  Broadband Briefs for 06/16/10