Time Warner Must Keep Running NFL, Says FCC


The FCC says Time Warner must continue to air the NFL Network while the commission considers a complaint from the network that Time Warner did not give it sufficient notice before pulling the network off systems it just acquired in its deal to split up Bankrupt Adelphia with Comcast.

The Commission's Media Bureau Monday denied Time Warner's petition to stay the FCC decision to force carriage, as well as Time Warner's request to reconsider the Media Bureau decision, or refer it to the full commission.

The FCC has concluded both that the NFL is likely to win on the merits and it says that the network has made a case that it could suffer irreparable harm if viewers didn't get to see the pre-season games it has in profusion--over 50.
Time Warner complained that the FCC had ordered the networks back on--after the NFL requested immediate relief--without Time Warner getting to file its response. The FCC cited the need for speed, given the possibility or irreparable harm to the NFL, and said that it had now considered Time Warner's arguments and had come to the same decision. The games stay on.
Time Warner could  now take the commission to court, though it has made no decision. It could also appeal the Media Bureau decision directly to the full commission, according to the FCC.
The dispute is over price and placement on Time Warner systems of the NFL Network. The Network wants to be on expanded basic, while Time Warner wants to place it on a sports tier. As part of basic, it could raise the rate of the tier by a dollar for everyone who wants the tier, not just those sports fans who can't get enough NFL.

"Time Warner Cable continues to believe that the FCC has misconstrued the notice rules and has ordered a remedy that is in clear violation of the First Amendment," the company said in response.  "The FCC's action has resulted in exacerbating, not avoiding, consumer confusion." 

"We are reviewing the decision and considering our options," said spokesman Mark Harrad.

Not surprisingly, the NFL was pleased with the latest development:
"We again commend the FCC's swift and thorough action in response to this matter," said the network in a statement, "and appreciate the Commission's protection of cable consumers - and NFL fans - throughout the country. We plan to continue discussions with Time Warner about the long-term carriage of the NFL Network. In the meantime, we are pleased that NFL fans will continue to have access to our 'insider' coverage of NFL training camps and the preseason as a result of this ruling."