Cablevision Files Suit Against FCC Media Bureau Over MSG Program-Access Decision


Cablevision is continuing to battle the Federal Communications Commission's program-access decision against Madison Square Garden.

The company has decided to file suit against the FCC Media Bureau's decision to require Madison Square Garden to make the HD feeds of regional sports networks MSG and MSG Plus available to Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse. It has asked the Second circuit Court of Appeals to stay the Nov. 25 effective date of making those feeds available per that FCC decision.

The Second Circuit last week refused Cablevision's request to stay the decisions, a request made before the FCC came out with its ruling the following day upholding the Media Bureau. Now that the commission has weighed in upholding the decision, Cablevision is suing it.

"We are pursuing a stay with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals while we seek a review of the Orders," said Cablevision in a statement. "We continue to believe that an unbiased review of the data can only result in one conclusion: that there has been no competitive harm to the nation's two largest phone companies. In a highly competitive marketplace like New York, a forced sharing of offerings only deters companies from investing and innovating, which hurts both fair competition and consumers. Verizon and AT&T should be expected to compete based on their products and not by manipulating federal law."

Without the stay, says Cablevision, MSG will suffer "irreparable harm to their market share, reputation, and First Amendment rights."

Cablevision argues that it needs to differentiate its MVPD service from that of AT&T and Verizon, since the phone companies can offer the same bundle of services, plus wireless phone service that Cablevision doesn't offer. "Cablevision thus viewed it important to provide at least some channels that the telephone companies cannot," it argues, which is why it did not make the HD feeds of its MSG regional sports net available to AT&T's U-Verse and Verizon's FiOS services.

The Media Burea in September ruled that Cablevision and Madison Square Garden violated the agency's program-access rules by withholding HD versions of MSG and MSG Plus from Verizon Communications and AT&T. The FCC ruled that it was an "unfair act" that "had the effect" of "significantly hindering AT&T [and Verizon] from providing a competing video service."