Sky Angel Sues C-SPAN for Carriage

Still Waiting for FCC Ruling in Program-Access Complaint Against Discovery

WASHINGTON — Sky Angel has opened a new front in its push for access to programming.

The hybrid satellite/online video distributor has filed an antitrust suit against C-SPAN, saying the public-affairs network improperly withdrew its programming from the program distributor in 2009. C-SPAN counters that the claim is without merit.

Sky Angel is still waiting for the Federal Communications Commission to weigh in on its earlier program-access complaint against Discovery Communications.

Sky Angel, whose website says it uses highspeed Internet connections to deliver a package of 50 Christian and family friendly programming networks to its subscribers, said that because C-SPAN is owned and operated by the cable industry, it “ceased to act as a legitimate collaboration among competitors” once it withdrew its programming. Instead, according to Sky Angel, the public-service progammer illegally harmed competition by depriving it of content that was highly valued and available to all of Sky Angel’s competitors.

Sky Angel, launched as a direct-broadcast satellite service but switched to what it terms as hybrid satellite/Internet delivery service, a move that prompted some programmers to choose not to be carried. Sky Angel subsequently filed a programaccess suit against one of those programmers, Discovery Communications. The FCC has yet to resolve that complaint, but has tentatively concluded an overthe- top aggregator does not fall under program-access rule protections because it does not also own the distribution facilities that a traditional multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) does.

“Competitors can act in concert if they have a legitimate reason, but agreeing to withhold programming in order to stifle a new entrant into the marketplace is not a legitimate reason,” Sky Angel attorney Jonathan Rubin said.

Sky Angel is seeking damages and mandatory access to C-SPAN for the next decade.

“We are surprised by this lawsuit, which we learned about from press reports,” C-SPAN vice president and general counsel Bruce Collins said.