- The Washington Times - Friday, March 31, 2006

Members of Congress next Friday plan to confront officials from Comcast Corp. in an effort to end the impasse that has prevented more than half of the region from seeing most Washington Nationals games on television.

According to several congressional and broadcast industry sources, the House Committee on Government Reform will hold a hearing to urge the Philadelphia-based company to carry the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, which broadcasts most Nationals games.

Comcast has refused to carry the network because of a dispute with MASN over the rights to carry Baltimore Orioles games beginning in 2007. Comcast is the largest cable provider in the region, with about 1.3 million subscribers, and owns Comcast SportsNet, a competing regional sports network that produces Orioles games.

“Our interest is enabling Washington area fans to see Nationals games,” Rep. Jim Moran, Virginia Democrat, told WTEM (AM-980) last night. “[Comcast] has an obligation to meet the needs of subscribers.”

Lawmakers, including Moran and Rep. Tom Davis, Virginia Republican, first voiced their concern over the MASN situation Sunday during a rally in front of RFK Stadium. They promised to meet with Comcast and MASN officials to help end the dispute without the need for hearings.

MASN is jointly owned by the Orioles and Nationals, with the bulk of the network’s revenues going to the Orioles. The network was created to compensate the Orioles for the Nationals’ move to the region last year.

Industry sources have said they believe Comcast will not carry MASN until it has an equity share in the network. MASN is currently available locally on DirecTV satellite service, Cox Cable, RCN Cable and Verizon’s FiOS service.

Moran yesterday met with Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who said he would not be willing to change the financial structure of MASN to appease Comcast, according to one source with knowledge of the meeting.

Rep. Frank Wolf, Virginia Republican, Senator Gordon Smith, Oregon Republican, and Senator Conrad Burns, Montana Republican, have pressed the FCC to force Comcast to carry the network, according to a report Wednesday in Roll Call magazine.

One source with knowledge of the scheduled hearing said Comcast would likely be questioned not only about the MASN situation, but other sports-related issues including the company’s recent agreement to have its Sportsnet New York network carried on Cablevision Cable, as well as its ownership stakes in the Philadelphia 76ers and Philadelphia Flyers.

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