Two California congressmen with a rooting interest in seeing the San Diego Padres get wider carriage for their constituents have called on FCC chairman Julius Genachowski to act on an AT&T complaint over access to the Major League Baseball club's games, or more specifically the lack of it.
If Rep. Bob Filner (D) and Duncan Hunter (R) seem familiar players in the drama, it is because they wrote a letter to the chairman not long after he was installed last summer calling Cox's decision not to sell the San Diego Padres games to competitive providers like AT&T's U-Verse video service "untenable."
In a follow-up letter last week, the pair said they were writing as "bipartisan fans" of the Padres, spurred in part by the April 5 opening day game for the Padres they said many fans would be unable to watch due to what they called Cox's "delaying tactics."
The FCC's Media Bureau summarily dismissed the AT&T complaint last year, saying Cox had not violated the agency's program-access rules because they applied to satellite, not terrestrially-delivered programming. But AT&T asked for a full-commission review that is still pending.
AT&T has also asked it to review that earlier decision in light of the commission's narrowing/closing of the terrestrial exemption. The FCC had dismissed the AT&T complaint because Cox delivers the Padres games via a terrestrial network. The FCC has previously concluded that such networks are exempt from the program-access requirements on satellite-delivered networks -- the so-called terrestrial exemption (or "loophole," depending on which side of the argument is taken).
"More than 12 months after an application for review was requested of the Commission -- and after the Commission's unequivocal finding in January 2010 that "Section 628 grants the Commission authority to address unfair acts involving terrestrially delivered, cable-affiliated programming," we are still awaiting resolution here in San Diego," the legislators wrote.
Cox had no comment at press time, but it has defended the practice, arguing at the time of AT&T's challenge that Cox "has been operating completely within its rights under the law to differentiate our services through the exclusive programming we deliver via Channel 4 San Diego which we own and operate. AT&T is looking for shortcuts instead of building its own competitive service with compelling local content in San Diego."