FCC rejects RCN sports play

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The FCC Wednesday tossed out RCN's appeal to make Cablevision provide the New York overbuilder secondary programming from Fox Sports/NY and the Madison Square Garden Network.

RCN was seeking access to "overflow" programming, generally additional local sports carried over land-lines in addition to primary coverage distributed to cable systems via satellite when there are simultaneous sporting events in the area. RCN's appeal was the last of two major complaints alleging that cable operators were unlawfully circumventing program access rules by transmitting local sports programming to cable systems via terrestrial links rather than by satellite.

In November the FCC rejected DirecTV and EchoStar's complaint against Comcast for transmitting Philadelphia-area Comcast Sportsnet terrestrially. The cable rivals argued that the cable programmers were exploiting a loophole in program access rules, which require cable programming be offered to all multichannel providers in a market when it is transmitted to the local cable monopoly by satellite. But the FCC said the programmers legitimately transmitted the programs terrestrially in order to offer a "hyper-local" service.

In dissent, Commissioner Gloria Tristani argued the agency should have undertaken a court-style discovery process to further examine Cablevision's reasons for relying on terrestrial transmissions.
- Bill McConnell

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