- The Washington Times - Friday, April 14, 2006

Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos reiterated his call for Comcast to begin carrying the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network so that Washington Nationals fans can see the team’s games on cable, and said he would agree to arbitration or even combining MASN with Comcast’s competing sports network.

“I don’t have any problem to any approach that gets the games to Nationals fans,” Angelos said in a rare interview broadcast on “the Politics Program” on WTWP (AM-1500). “I will go anywhere and meet with Comcast to participate in any proceeding whereby the situation that the fans are confronted with will go away.”

Angelos agreed to appear on the radio show after host Mark Plotkin awarded him the program’s weekly “You Take the Cake” prize, given to the public figure who angered Plotkin most during the previous week.

Some critics, including Plotkin, have criticized Angelos for refusing to change the structure of MASN to allow the Nationals to receive more revenue. Under the current structure, the Orioles own 90 percent of the network, and pay $20million to the Nationals in rights fees. Angelos defended the financial structure of the network, arguing that the fees paid to the Nationals are higher than the league average, and that the fees and the Nationals’ share of the network will rise in future years.

The network was put together by Major League Baseball as part of a package to compensate Angelos for the Nationals’ move to the region.

Angelos said he still has reservations about whether two teams within such a close proximity can be successful, but that he will work with the new Nationals owner to ensure both are viable.

“If Washington was not the capital of the United States, there would have been no chance that a baseball franchise would be put within such close proximity to an existing franchise,” Angelos said. “But on that basis, I agree with the location because we in baseball say baseball is our national pastime, and I think there’s a great deal of legitimacy to that.”

He said both teams would benefit by having MASN shown on cable, and he directed the blame squarely at Comcast, who he accused of trying to protect its own sports network, Comcast SportsNet.

“They are deliberately preventing their subscribers — who are paying good money every month — from watching the team that they consider their baseball team,” Angelos said.

In testimony before a Congressional committee last week, and in two subsequent interviews, Comcast executive vice president David Cohen said the company would be willing to meet with MASN officials about any proposal. He refuted the charge that Comcast is simply playing hardball with MASN in order to acquire an equity share of the network, and pointed out that the majority of channels broadcast by Comcast are owned by other companies. But he said MASN is too expensive to carry on its networks, especially since it has yet to offer any programming other than baseball.

“It is an overpriced network compared to other regional sports networks around the country,” Cohen said.

Also yesterday on Plotkin’s radio show, D.C. Council member Vincent Orange said he will continue to urge the new owner of the Nationals to allow himself to be taxed in the District, so that the city can benefit financially from having the team. He also expressed support for two ownership groups, including those of D.C. businessman Fred Malek and Indianapolis communications executive Jeff Smulyan.

Orange, a strong supporter of the Nationals’ move to Washington, said he has close relationships with members of the Malek and Smulyan teams but has never met anyone from another favored group led by the family of local real estate mogul Ted Lerner.

“I’ve never met Mr. Lerner,” Orange said. “If he were to walk in here today, I wouldn’t know who he is.”

Orange also said he was troubled by recent reports that the Lerner group was lacking in minority investors. If true, he said the selection of the Lerner group would be “unconscionable” and “an assault on our nation’s capital.”

A decision on ownership by Major League Baseball is expected by next week.

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