U.S. House To Discuss TV Dispute

By Thomas Heath
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 31, 2006

The House Government Reform Committee is planning to hold hearings next Friday on the dispute between Comcast Corp. and Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, congressional sources said yesterday. The two sides' inability to reach an accord has meant Comcast's local customers are unable to watch most Washington Nationals games.

Philadelphia-based Comcast has refused to carry MASN, which is the home television network of the Nationals. The network will produce and air 154 Nationals games this season. Comcast is suing MASN in a separate matter involving who will control the television rights to the Baltimore Orioles, and in the meantime the cable company has refused to put MASN on one of its channels.

Five cable and satellite providers in the Washington area have agreed to carry MASN's Nationals games to about 2 million households, but the team cannot achieve maximum distribution throughout the Washington region without Comcast's airing the network to its 1.3 million subscribers here.

MASN is majority-owned by the Baltimore Orioles, whose owner, Peter Angelos, agreed to share his television territory with the Nationals when they moved here from Montreal last season. In return, baseball granted MASN the right to broadcast Nationals games. MASN will pay the Nationals $21 million this season for those rights.

MASN said it has made four requests for Comcast to air Nationals games and said it has been rebuffed on each occasion. Comcast has said MASN is in breach of the cable firm's rights to the Orioles games and that its fees are too high for a part-time network.

Comcast's lawsuit against MASN has been dismissed twice by a Maryland Circuit Court judge, and the case is now under appeal.

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