Washington -- EchoStar Communications Corp. has complained
about alleged price discrimination by Fox/Liberty Networks LLC's Fox Sports Arizona, the
cable network that shows Arizona Diamondbacks Major League Baseball and Phoenix Coyotes
National Hockey League games.
In a June 23 complaint at the Federal Communications
Commission, EchoStar said competing cable operators pay 60 cents per month, per subscriber
for FSAZ, based on media reports.
It was unclear what EchoStar's Dish Network pays for FSAZ
because the direct-broadcast satellite carrier redacted its license fee from the
complaint, citing contractual confidentiality clauses. But EchoStar made it clear that it
pays more than 60 cents.
"We have ample evidence that the disparity in rates is
huge," said Pantelis Micholopoulos, a lawyer based here with Steptoe & Johnson,
who represents EchoStar in the dispute.
Fox/Liberty is a 50-50 joint venture between News Corp. and
Liberty Media Group, a unit that AT&T Corp. operates under the control of former
Tele-Communications Inc. chairman and CEO John Malone.
In a deal expected to close late last week, Liberty would
trade its stake in the venture for a 7.5 percent nonvoting stake in Fox parent News Corp.
Under FCC rules, only satellite-delivered programming owned
by a cable operator is subject to program-access complaints. EchoStar said it filed a
valid complaint because AT&T, through Liberty's stake in News Corp., had an
attributable interest in FSAZ.
Fox Sports general counsel Dan Fawcett said the FSAZ
agreement with EchoStar is part of a second agreement that EchoStar challenged at the FCC,
but the commission decided that EchoStar's petition was not filed in a timely fashion.
"This is sort of another attempt by EchoStar to get
around the FCC decision in the earlier case," Fawcett added.