Judge Denies MASN Motion to Delay Enforcement Bureau Comments

Sippel urges two sides to settle complaint on their own quickly
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An FCC administrative law judge has declined to extend the deadline for the commission's Enforcement Bureau to file its recommendation in the program carriage complaint of the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network against Comcast.

That complaint, which had alleged discrimination and retaliation against MASN by Comcast and favoritism to its own similarly-situated networks, was adjudicated in May before Judge Richard Sippel, who is currently deciding the case. The Enforcement Bureau represented the FCC in the hearing.

That recommendation is due July 31, but MASN petitioned the court to move the deadline, saying the two sides were close to a negotiated settlement--scheduled for Aug. 4--and the recommendation might jeopardize that.

Comcast opposed the request and said that the two sides did not yet have an agreement in principle that would be threatened by revealing the comments, though it did say the two sides were still negotiating.

In denying MASN's request for a delay of the Enforcement Bureau's comments on the merits of the case, Judge Sippel pointed out that the bureau had not requested the delay. He said MASN had not demonstrated that the delay would facilitate settlement. Comcast even argued that the comments might help goose the process by "sharpening" the party's respective positions.

But he also said he hoped that MASN's view of the negotiations was closer to reality. "MASN and Comcast are urged to settle and to file a joint motion to dismiss this proceeding as soon as practicable."

The MASN complaint is one of three program access complaints adjudicated by Sippel. The judge has yet to render a verdict on any of them. A complaint filed by the NFL Network against Comcast was resolved. Another complaint, filed by Wealth TV against a quartet of top cable operators has not been resolved, but the Enforcement Bureau has said it doesn't think Wealth TV made its case.

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