The FCC upheld an arbitrator’s decision that Time Warner Cable discriminated against the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) when it refused to carry the network’s programming on its analog tier in North Carolina.
According to FCC documents, TWC had offered MASN carriage on its digital tier, but MASN rejected the offer because the analog tier had more subscribers. TWC countered that it did not have an analog channel to allocate, and that it did not want to pass on the cost of MASN to all subscribers.
The arbitrator’s decision – and the FCC’s – hinged on the issue of fair market value. Basically, both the arbitrator and the FCC agreed that MASN’s requirement for carriage simply trumped any of TWC’s concerns.
Ordinarily the FCC would have little authority on such matters, but some of the cable systems in question had belonged to Adelphia, and the FCC’s approval of TWC’s takeover of those systems included a number of conditions, including that TWC arbitrate with regional sports networks for carriage rights. The FCC reserves authority to step in to situations where TWC denies carriage.
In its Adelphia decision, the FCC ruled that TWC has an incentive to deny carriage to unaffiliated regional sports networks (RSNs), such as MASN. Denial of carriage, the FCC reasoned, would put unaffiliated RSNs out of business; after that, an RSN affiliated with TWC could then pick up the content.
The FCC decided that MASN’s rejection of carriage on the digital tier was tantamount to TWC denying MASN carriage, giving the Commission authority to get involved in the matter.
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