FCC chief intervenes in baseball dispute

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is getting involved in the fight over which cable companies can air Los Angeles Dodgers games.

For months, certain cable and satellite companies have been feuding with SportsNet LA — the Dodgers local channel is owned by the team and distributed by Time Warner Cable — over compensation for carrying the channel, leaving subscribers without access to Dodgers games.

In a letter to Time Warner Cable CEO Robert Marcus on Tuesday, Wheeler expressed his “strong concern” about the disputes between the company and other cable and satellite television companies, asking Marcus for information about how Time Warner Cable plans to resolve the blackouts.

“The FCC will continue to monitor this dispute closely and will intervene as appropriate necessary to bring relief to consumers,” he wrote.

Late last week, a group of California Democrats in the House asked Wheeler to intervene in the dispute.

“The tradition of the Los Angeles Dodgers accompanies by the iconic voice of Vin Scully remains a pastime that families across Los Angeles eagerly anticipate every baseball season,” the lawmakers said in the letter to Wheeler.

“Unfortunately, we are at the midpoint in the season and thousands of baseball fens remain in the dark.”

According to an FCC spokesperson, Wheeler called Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), two of signatories on last week's letter, to discuss their concerns.

In his letter to Marcus on Tuesday, Wheeler echoed the concerns of lawmakers, pointing to frustrated viewers who are unable to view the games and competition concerns.

“The matter of such vertical integration in a manner that affects consumers and the marketplace is of timely concern to the FCC,” he said.

Wheeler noted Time Warner Cable’s stated willingness to enter arbitration with the other cable and satellite companies and asked for more information about the proposed arbitration process, including “how and when that process could bring relief to consumers expeditiously.”

“In action is no longer acceptable,” he wrote.

“I strongly urge you to end the impasses that are depriving Los Angeles consumers from being able to watch their home baseball team.”