In the last needed regulatory step, the FCC has approved a $17 billion deal to sell the assets of Adelphia Communications, the bankrupt cable operator, to Comcast and Time Warner Cable.
In a 4-to-1 vote that came with conditions, the FCC prohibited the two buyers from engaging in tactics that would effectively make regional sports programming unavailable to rivals, such as satellite TV, the Associated Press reported.
However, Comcast SportsNet in Philadelphia is exempt from the rule and will continue to be unavailable to DirecTV and EchoStar Communications, owner of the DISH Network. SportsNet broadcasts games of several local professional sports teams, including the 76ers, the Phillies and the Flyers of the National Hockey League.
“This decision is about big media getting bigger with consumers holding the bag,” said Michael Copps, the only dissenter among the commissioners.
Copps said that Philadelphia was “inexplicably” exempted from an order to make regional sports programming available to competitors. “Residents of Philadelphia are still stuck without competitive choice,” Copps noted.
Adelphia filed for bankruptcy in 2002. Its founder, John J. Rigas, and his son, Timothy J. Rigas, were convicted in 2004 on charges of conspiracy and fraud after $2.3 billion was looted from the company. Both are currently free as they appeal the verdict.