Washington -- Scrappy cable overbuilder RCN Corp. has filed
a program-access complaint at the Federal Communications Commission, accusing Cablevision
Systems Corp. of illegally withholding sports programming from RCN's New York City system
to benefit Time Warner Cable in Manhattan.RCN filed the complaint May 7 after learning
that Cablevision refused to sell it MSG Metro Channel, which Cablevision is partially
using as a sports "overflow" channel. Overflow occurs when New York's many area
sports teams are playing at once and can't all be seen live on Madison Square Garden
Network or Fox Sports New York.
Cablevision, RCN alleged, agreed to sell MSG Metro to Time
Warner in Manhattan, but not to RCN, which has about 50,000 Manhattan subscribers.
Under federal law, Cablevision can withhold MSG Metro
because it is not satellite-delivered. RCN has access to satellite-delivered MSGN and
FSNY, where the bulk of the games appear.
RCN said the FCC should fine Cablevision because it had
"moved the overflow programming from satellite to terrestrial distribution to evade
the program-access provisions of the law." RCN also asked for unspecified monetary
"RCN's demand for access to Metro's sporting events is
totally without merit. Programming delivered via landline, like the Metro Channels, is not
subject to mandatory-access requirements of the Cable Act," said a spokeswoman for
Rainbow Media Holdings Inc., which operates Cablevision's programming networks.
RCN said its subscribers lost access to 26 games in April
because they couldn't tune into MSG Metro.
"As a result of the loss of the overflow programming
that has been moved to MSG Metro, RCN has been besieged by complaints from its
subscribers, and it has suffered damage to its business reputation prompted by the loss of
such programming," RCN's complaint said.