YES-Cablevision Spat D.C.-Bound?

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Newport, R.I. -- The standoff between Yankees Entertainment & Sports
Network and Cablevision Systems Corp. -- already the subject of an antitrust
suit -- might be heading to Washington, D.C.

'We've been told that at least that one of the parties might be filing a
complaint at the FCC. We've been alerted that it's at least a possibility at
this point,' said Kenneth Ferree, chief of the Federal Communications
Commission's Media Bureau, the division mostly likely to take the first swing at
a complaint.

Were a compliant filed, Ferree said, it would likely come under seldom-tested
section 616 of federal communications law, which addresses restrictions on a
cable operator's ability to seek an ownership interest in a programming network
in exchange for a carriage agreement.

Without commenting on a possible FCC complaint, Cablevision president Tom
Rutledge said his company was standing up to a programmer that was attempting to
recover a large license from all subscribers rather than just from the sports
viewers most interested in YES' product, New York Yankees Major League Baseball
games.

'It just can't be passed through without any restriction at all. Right now,
the way the model works, there is no impediment to that unless an operator is
willing to take the kind of heat we are,' Rutledge said. 'We lost some customers
who are rabid fans. But it's been a small amount, a lot smaller than people
predicted.'

AT&T Broadband president and CEO William Schleyer said his company might
be facing the same situation in Boston with MLB's Red Sox and New England Sports
Network, which are commonly owned. He did not know when the next contract cycle
begins.

'I would like to think that we do not have to go to Washington to solve this
problem, because I think the solution might have unintended consequences,' said
Schleyer, who favors moving high-cost sports programming to a la carte status if
programmers would agree.

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