- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday signed a bill designed to compel Comcast to begin carrying the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network in an effort to end the standoff that has prevented most fans from watching Washington Nationals games on cable.

The bill, passed unanimously by the D.C. Council on May 2, requires Comcast to carry MASN or enter into negotiations to change the cable company’s franchise agreement with the city.

“This dispute is keeping Nats games off the air, which in turn hurts the team and deprives too many fans of a chance to watch the games,” Williams said. “Besides wanting as many people as possible to see the games, I firmly believe it’s in the best financial interests of the District for the Nationals to succeed and for the team to build a broad fan base.”

However, the impact of the bill’s signing is likely to be minimal. Comcast has said it will not comply with the legislation, arguing that efforts by local governments are “clearly impermissible under federal law.”

MASN is largely owned by the Baltimore Orioles, and was formed as part of a complex agreement with Major League Baseball to compensate Orioles owner Peter Angelos for the Nationals move to the region. The network is scheduled to carry Orioles games beginning in 2007, but Comcast has refused to carry the network because it believes it should have been allowed to compete for the rights to continue carrying Orioles games on its own sports network, Comcast SportsNet. Comcast sued the Orioles last year and lost, but is appealing the ruling.

Comcast is the region’s largest cable provider, with about 1.3 subscribers in the region and about 100,000 in the District. MASN is currently available on five other cable and satellite providers, including DirecTV, RCN Cable, Cox Cable, Verizon FiOS and Charter Cable.

Action Jackson

An infielder by trade, Damian Jackson was pleasantly surprised to find his name penciled in as the Washington Nationals starting center fielder for a second straight game.

“I knew I got a couple hits and had a pretty good chance of possibly playing, was on base three times, and those are things we need right now,” said Jackson, who went 2-for-3 with a home run, single, walk and a run in Monday’s ugly 10-3 loss to the Houston Astros. “I wasn’t sure they might call somebody up, or who might be playing.”

The multi-dimensional Jackson became the Nationals emergency center fielder Monday when Alex Escobar told the club’s training staff that his left hamstring was bothering him about two hours before the game. After the game, the Nationals placed Escobar on the 15-day disabled list.

Nationals manager Frank Robinson didn’t know Jackson possessed such power. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder has homered in each of his last three starts, including last night. Jackson, who has already played five positions (2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF) for the Nationals this season, entered last night’s game hitting .270.

“Jackson deserves to go out and start another game on his play. He had a good game [Monday],” Robinson said. “What I like about him, is he seems to have a good at-bat at home plate. He seems to know what he wants to do at the plate and is having some success.”

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