Updated: Comcast Asks Copps To Act On NFL Network Case

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Washington -- Comcast Corp. has asked acting Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Copps to return its program carriage dispute with the NFL Network to an administrative law judge.

Comcast sent a letter to Copps on the matter Thursday, his first day in office, adding that it was acting on behalf of three other cable operators facing similar program carriage complaints that were seized from the ALJ last month by a subordinate to then-FCC chairman Kevin Martin.

"Putting these cases back in the hands of an independent ALJ is the best way to ensure that full and fair hearings are conducted, with appropriate cross-examination of witnesses and assessments of the credibility of witnesses and other evidence," Comcast's letter said.

The NFL Network also sent its own letter to Copps, which read in part:  "Our primary interest is in seeing that this case and the others are handled fairly and expeditiously. We have expressed that interest and priority at every opportunity, in every pleading before the Commission, the Media Bureau, and the presiding Administrative Law Judge. In contrast, Comcast and its cohorts have set out on a different course, taking advantage of every opportunity to create procedural obstacles and to cause delay...

"...proceeding with the Media Bureau process seems especially sensible and consistent with the statutory directive for expedition given that the recent retirement of Judge Steinberg has left only one ALJ in that office and there are six proceedings to be resolved and six recommended opinions to be written."

 In October, FCC Media Bureau chief Monica Desai referred the cases to the ALJ for trial. After the ALJ failed to act within 60 days, Desai reclaimed jurisdiction last month. Comcast claims Desai's actions were unlawful and sought a stay from the FCC commissioners. Desai later set a schedule to review the cases.

In the letter to Copps, Comcast urged him to rescind Desai's orders if the FCC is too busy with the digital TV transition to act on Comcast's stay request. Doing that, Comcast said, would return the disputes to the ALJ, who had planned a more thorough trial than the review proposed by Desai.

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