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FCC Decision Keeps MASN Out Of Carolina

By Dave Hughes,

The Baltimore-based Mid-Atlantic Sports Network has been dealt a setback in its multi-year battle to get carried by cable TV systems in North Carolina.

On Dec. 21, the Federal Communications Commission reversed a two-year-old decision, concluding Time Warner Cable did not discriminate against MASN, TV trade publication Multichannel News reported. The cable operator won't have to deliver the regional sports network and its Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles games to its subscribers in North Carolina. The FCC vote comes more than two years after Time Warner challenged an FCC decision to uphold an outside arbiter's finding it had discriminated against MASN by not agreeing to carry it on a widely-viewed tier.

According to Multichannel News, the FCC ordered Time Warner Cable to start carrying MASN on a widely-viewed tier in October 2008 after MASN filed its complaint in July of that year. The operator immediately appealed that decision.

MASN spokesman Todd Webster said if the FCC had changed course, "a decision to reverse the judgments of two independent arbitrators and the FCC's Media Bureau would harm consumers who want nightly baseball in North Carolina, and make it virtually impossible for independent programmers to get a fair shake in disputes with vertically integrated cable giants."

He told Multichannel News he would not speculate on what MASN would do after the FCC’s latest vote, but it could appeal the FCC's decision in court.

For several years now, MASN has been fighting to get carried in North Carolina, including the Raleigh-Durham area. Time Warner contends the region is geared more to the Atlanta and Charlotte sports media markets, and less so toward Baltimore and Washington.

MASN contends Time Warner carried the Washington, D.C.-based Home Team Sports (now Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic) when it carried the Orioles and should now carry MASN. Plus, MASN added, DirecTV and Dish Network both offer MASN in North Carolina in addition to some of the other local cable providers. But not Time Warner.

MASN has had more success getting carried by Comcast in parts of southern and western Virginia, including the Roanoke area, and in central Pennsylvania around Harrisburg.

Comcast carries MASN in the Baltimore-Washington D.C. area, as well as in Richmond and on the Eastern Shore. Other cable companies carry MASN in the Norfolk area.

When Towson University's mens' basketball team takes on La Salle Dec. 29, it will be Spiro Morekas' 1,000th broadcast of the school's athletics. The game will be broadcast on WTMD (89.7 FM).

Could Morekas have done more college play-by-play than anyone in the history of Baltimore radio? Ted Patterson was at Navy for about 15 years; Morekas is now in his 20th season at Towson.

With FCC approval of the NBC-Comcast merger said to be just weeks away, San Francisco media blogger Rich Lieberman at reported NBC-owned KNTV-TV in the San Francisco/San Jose area will outsource its local sports programming to Comcast Bay Area SportsNet.

Will NBC-owned D.C. TVer, Channel 4/WRC, eventually do a sports outsource or share deal with Bethesda-based Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic? Stay tuned.

Posted Dec. 23, 2010