FCC Takes Aim at Time Warner Cable in Dodgers Dispute

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“Inaction is no longer acceptable,” FCC chairman says of prolonged carriage disagreement

Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler has a message for Time Warner Cable: Get the Dodgers back on the air.

In a stern letter to Time Warner Cable chairman and CEO Rob Marcus on Tuesday, Wheeler urged TWC to end its carriage dispute with various subscription-TV providers, a dispute that has left approximately 70 percent of the Los Angeles market without televised access to Dodgers games this baseball season.

According to Wheeler’s letter, Time Warner Cable has set up a long-term contract with the Dodgers-owned SportsNet LA, and is demanding that the network be carried on the basic service tier at rates ranging from $4 to $5 dollars per subscriber.

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The price has caused subscription-TV providers to balk, leading to a prolonged blackout of Dodgers games for most of the L.A. market.

While applauding TWC’s willingness to enter binding arbitration in the dispute, Wheeler warned the company that the commission is closely monitoring the situation, and will step in if necessary.

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“The FCC will continue to monitor the dispute closely and I will intervene as appropriate necessary [sic] to bring relief to consumers,” Wheeler wrote, asking TWC to provide “a written explanation of the arbitration process it has proposed, how that process could bring relief to consumers expeditiously, and what other steps TWC will take to resolve this matter if arbitration is not successful.”

“I continue to have the hope that this dispute can be resolved in the marketplace. Nevertheless, given the breadth and protracted nature of this dispute, it is appropriate that we begin to assemble the facts and build a record,” Wheeler concludes. “Inaction is no longer acceptable. I strongly urge you to end the impasses that are depriving Los Angeles consumers from being able to watch their home baseball team.”