The FCC’s Media Bureau on Oct. 30 upheld the decision of an arbitrator and ordered Time Warner Cable to begin carrying the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) on its analog tier in North Carolina within 30 days.
The issue has its roots in the FCC’s Adelphia order requiring Time Warner Cable to enter into commercial arbitration with any regional sports network (RSN) that could not reach an agreement with the cable operator if so desired by the RSN. The commission established the requirement because it recognized Time Warner would have an incentive to deny carriage to “unaffiliated RSNs with the intent of forcing the RSNs out of business” allowing the cable company to win access to programming for affiliated RSNs, according the order.
In March 2005, MASN began seeking carriage on the basic and extended service tiers of Time Warner cable systems in North Carolina. A month later, Time Warner announced plans to acquire North Carolina cable systems owned by Adelphia. Following the July 2006 commission approval of the Adelphia deal, Time Warner said it would resume negotiations with MASN, which proceeded until January 2007. At that point, Time Warner said it had no interest in pursing MASN coverage. In April 2007, told Time Warner it would seek to settle the matter as proscribed by the Adelphia order in arbitration. In June, MASN filed a formal demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association (AAA) seeking arbitration of the dispute under the Adelphia order rules.
In June 2008, the AAA arbitrator found that Time Warner had discriminated against MASN and that the discrimination restrained MASN’s ability to compete. The arbitrator also found MASN’s final offer reflected the fair market value of the rights to carry the sports network in North Carolina.
Time Warner appealed the arbitrator’s decision to the commission, asking it to set it aside. In its order, the Media Bureau rejected the appeal and sided with the arbitrator.