FCC should mediate cable network football dispute

    Editor’s note: Wisconsin’s First District Congressman Paul Ryan today sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin, voicing the concerns of constituents who are not able to watch this Thursday’s Green Bay Packers game or Wisconsin Badgers’ basketball games, due to disputes between cable providers and the NFL Network and the Big Ten Network. The text of Ryan’s letter follows:

    Dear Chairman Martin:

    I am writing to follow up on a number of concerns I have heard from my constituents about cable systems refusing to carry the NFL Network and the Big Ten Network. 

    Because of the NFL Network dispute, many of my constituents will be unable to watch the Nov. 29 Green Bay Packers-Dallas Cowboys game, which is one of the most important of the season for the Packers.

    This issue has also affected the broadcast of local college sports as well. In fact, many of the Wisconsin Badgers’ basketball games are also not available to local residents through regular cable packages because of the cable carriers’ refusal to carry the Big Ten Network. There is something fundamentally wrong with the cable market when millions of Wisconsin residents are denied the choice to watch their local teams on television. 

    As we have seen with the explosion of internet broadcasting, competition and consumer choice are cornerstones of a healthy and vibrant marketplace. I understand the FCC has opened a rulemaking proceeding (MB Docket 07-42) to consider program carriage issues such as these – particularly as they relate to independent and diverse channels. I would urge the FCC to consider changing its rules to facilitate appointment of an arbitrator in disputes like the ones involving the NFL Network and the Big Ten Network, so they can be resolved more quickly (preferably through negotiation between the parties) and with consumers’ interests foremost in mind.

    I applaud your decision to review the cable television market, and I urge you to ensure that free market competition can thrive – not anti-competitive monopolistic practices. On behalf of the residents of the 1st District of Wisconsin, I appreciate your consideration of these concerns.

    State Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) represents Wisconsin’s 1st District.

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