Sports Siphoning to Get Hill Vetting

House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey Sets Hearing Lineup 3/03/2008 06:15:00 AM Eastern

House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has an all-star lineup of industry witnesses set for his March 5 hearing on "Competition in the Sports Programming Marketplace."

Ed Markey

The hearing will include not only the issue of tussles between cable programmers and operators over access to regional sports networks, but the migration of sports from free to pay TV, a one-time hot-button issue on Capitol Hill that seemed to cool as more sports -- all-star games, Major League Baseball playoffs, Monday Night Football, golf -- moved to pay platforms.

"The hearing will examine the sports-programming marketplace," the committee said Monday in announcing the witness list, as well as "consumer choice and the availability of sports programming on free, over-the-air broadcast television compared with sports programming on pay television services.

Witnesses are Time Warner Cable president Glenn Britt; National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell; ESPN president George Bodenheimer; DirecTV executive vice president Derek Chang; Ken Ferree, president of free-market group Freedom Foundation and former FCC Media Bureau chief; and Consumer Federation of America research director Mark Cooper.

Access to sports has been a key issue under FCC chairman Kevin Martin, who has expressed concern about concentrated cable operators' control over must-have programming.

The issue has also been much on the mind of Markey, including access to Boston Red Sox MLB games, which involved DirecTV, and New England Patriots NFL games, which involved both Time Warner and the NFL and their carriage battle over NFL Network. Time Warner doesn't carry the network, which now has a package of NFL regular-season games.

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