Tomorrow’s media column will condense the previously posted Q-and-A with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell into a newsprint-readable format. But with that came an update today on the league’s pending FCC ruling against the cable companies in question, if it matters how you view this whole issue with the NFL Network getting resolved.
We’ll refer you to a Broadcasting & Cable story on the thing:
An FCC administrative law judge has ruled that a trial will go forward on program discrimination complaints against Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and Brighthouse, but that it will start fresh with the facts of the cases and cannot be finished within the 60-day time frame proposed by the FCC.
The FCC’s Media Bureau last month had concluded that the complainants in a half-dozen program access complaints, including the NFL, WealthTV, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, had made Prima facie case that Comcast, Cox, Time Warner Cable and Brighthouse had violated the FCC’s rules against discriminating against outside vendors in favor of an affiliated network.
But the FCC also said there were several factual disputes that it could not resolve, and so set all for adjudication, with a decision required within 60 days. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin would have preferred the FCC bureau act on that prima facie evidence, but the other commissioners wanted to take the further step of referring the complaints to FCC judges to make the call.
In an opinion, a copy of which was obtained by B&C, FCC Judge Arthur I. Steinberg granted cable operators’ request for more than 60 days, saying the FCC’s time frame “cannot be achieved” given the “extremely complex proceeding involving six separate program carriage complaints” against four defendants. The operators had said 60 days was unrealistic and insufficient.
The NFL’s response to the news:
NFL Network is pleased that the Administrative Law Judge has rejected Comcast’s attempts to delay this proceeding through a needless appeal to the full Commission — an appeal that sought to challenge the clear legal standards that support the NFL Network’s complaint. We’re particularly glad to note that the ALJ’s order did not accept Comcast’s position that it was exempt from the statutory prohibition against discrimination because of its contract with the NFL Network . We will now turn to proving our case in the ALJ factual hearing, and will do our utmost to help the ALJ complete the hearing expeditiously, as he has promised to do.