Small Cable Ops Seek RSN Aid


Hoping to share the FCC's spotlight on regional sports network (RSN) carriage dispute resolution, small cable operators have asked the FCC for some help with negotiations with News Corp.'s RSNs.

The FCC's key condition on Comcast/Time Warner's purchase of Adelphia was protecting access to regional sports networks through an arbitration process, calling the home team games "must-have" programming the withholding of which would be detrimental to the competitiveness of competing multichannel video providers.

That condition was based on one imposed by the FCC on News Corp.'s purchase of satellite operator DirecTV's.

As part of that DirecTV condition, News Corp. is required to allow a "bargaining agent," in this case the National Cable Television Cooperative, to represent smaller cable operators in carriage negotiations.

News Corp. recognizes them as a bargaining agent, says NCTC, but won't free smaller cable operators from their confidentiality agreements so they can give NCTC information it says it needs to bargain collectively for them.

In a five-page letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, NCTC asked for clarification that cable operators can disclose that information. It also wanted clarification that if an operators contract with and RSN expires during negotiations, it is still permitted to carry the disputed RSN during the negotiation and any arbitration period.

NCTC asked the commission to clarify the confidentiality issue almost a year ago, but clearly sees the iron as newly hot for a revisit in the wake of the Adelphia decision.