House Urges FCC to Intercede In MASN Debate

Friday, June 30, 2006

The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday approved a measure urging the Federal Communications Commission to act upon a year-old request by the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network that could force the Comcast cable company to end its refusal to carry most Nationals games t o millions of fans.

The House Appropriations Committee said in a report that it "strongly urges the FCC to act expeditiously upon the complaint . . . regarding Washington Nationals baseball."

"I brought it up at the hearing, and we came to the conclusion that inserting this language would be good to let the FCC know that on behalf of the folks who live in this area, these games should be on TV," said Rep. Jose E. Serrano (D-N.Y.), who said he asked the language be inserted because he wants to watch Nationals games on television

An FCC spokesman declined to comment.

The FCC complaint, filed a year ago, alleges Comcast is refusing to carry Nationals games "unless it receives a financial interest in the regional sports network that carries those games," which is the Baltimore Orioles-owned Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. The complaint asks the FCC to order Comcast to carry the MASN channel, which is the home network for Nationals games.

"Comcast has always supported the return of Major League Baseball to Washington . . . and we continue to seek a resolution that will get the Nationals games on TV as quickly as possible," said Comcast Executive Vice President David L. Cohen , who called the FCC complaint "nothing more than a media stunt."

MASN spokesman Todd Webster said "the Comcast blackout is hurting fans, hurting the Nationals and now the politicians and regulators are up in arms."

The Orioles, who control baseball's rights to the Baltimore-Washington television market through MASN, and Comcast have been at odds for more than a year over who will dominate cable television sports in the region.

-- Thomas Heath

© 2006 The Washington Post Company