Yesterday I told you that I was relaunching the Free The Flyers website, now directing comments to Senator Arlen Specter.
So this morning, I sent the following email to all of the people who used the Free The Flyers site to submit a comment to the FCC.
(Out of nearly 200 people who did, only one is outside of the Philadelphia area, so this is a very local issue.)
I’m writing to you because you used the FreeTheFlyers.com website to submit a comment to the FCC saying you wanted to be able to watch Phillies, Flyers, and Sixers games on satellite TV. About 200 of us asked them to close the Comcast Loophole as a condition of approving our local cable giant’s merger with Adelphia.
Well, the FCC approved the deal a few weeks ago, so I wanted to give you an update. I have some good news and some bad news and some good news.
The good news is that the FCC did make it a condition of the merger that Comcast has to share its sports programming with its competitors.
The bad news is they made a specific exception for Philadelphia. I couldn’t believe it, but it’s true. They called it a “carve out.” All I know is it’s got more to do with Comcast’s clout in DC than what’s fair for Philly.
The good news is Congress could still do something about this. There’s a piece of legislation in the Senate that would radically change the way we get our television.
The bad news is it originally had a provision in it that would have closed the Comcast Loophole, but after Comcast VP David L. Cohen told the Senate that they shouldn’t be concerned with the matter because it only affected people in Philadelphia (he really said this), they took it out. See what I mean by clout?
There are other problems with the bill. For one thing, it would close the Internet to make it more like cable television than the open system we know and love. Imagine if you had to be a Comcast subscriber to be able to get to phillies.com.
The good news is I’m relaunching FreeTheFlyers.com today and directing our comments to Senator Arlen Specter asking him to oppose or amend that bill. He should be doing more to make sure we get what we paid for as tax-paying sports fans and TV watchers.
Please spread this around. Forward this email (with some further explanation) to your friends and family and ask them to fill out the form at http://freetheflyers.com
If you used the old FTF site to send a comment to the FCC, you don’t need to fill it out again. Once we get 300 more people to fill out the form, I will put all of our statements together and take them to Senator Specter’s office myself. So spread the word!
If you have any questions or suggestions or want more information, just respond to this email. If you don’t want me to email you again, that’s fine, too, just let me know. No one is paying me to do this – I’m just a sports fan who knows the deal when it comes to communications law. So I don’t plan to write often. The next time you’ll hear from me will be with an invitation to join me at Specter’s office.
And I sent this press release to some local media:
SEPTEMBER 7, 2006
****** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ******
contact: Joshua Breitbart
Free The Flyers!
Philly Sports Fans Relaunch Campaign to Close the Comcast Loophole
Rebuffed by the Federal Communications Commission, a group of nearly 200 Philadelphia sports fans are today calling on Congress to end Comcast’s withholding of local sports programming from its competitors.
They are using a website <www.freetheflyers.com> to send emails to Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) asking him to oppose Senate Bill 2686 unless it is amended to close what the fans call the “Comcast Loophole.”
The letter to Senator Specter reads, in part, “The recent merger of Comcast and Adelphia has given Comcast a monopoly over Philadelphia cable television and excessive control over the national market. Comcast was already dismissive of my concerns as a consumer: constantly rising prices and poor customer service. Now the problems with my local TV will be even worse. But I don’t want to switch to another pay TV provider because I want to be able to watch my local sports teams.”
Current law requires broadcasters to share with competitors any programming they transmit through satellite, but exempts programming transmitted through wires. Cable companies like Comcast use this loophole to withhold “must have” programming from competitors, in effect creating a monopoly.
The fans had used their website <www.freetheflyers.com> to submit comments to the FCC as it considered Comcast’s proposed merger with the bankrupt Adelphia Communications. They asked the FCC to place a condition on the merger requiring the nation’s largest cable company to share its regional sports programming with competitors before allowing it to grow even larger.
The FCC placed precisely such a condition on the deal when they approved it last month, but established an exception for Philadelphia. Philadelphia is now the only market in the country where a cable company is allowed to withhold its sports programming from other television providers.
“The FCC sold us out. We’re hoping Congress won’t do the same. As our Senator and the Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Specter should be doing more to make sure we get what we paid for as tax-paying sports fans and TV watchers,” said Joshua Breitbart, a Philadelphia resident who loves the weekends because it’s the only time he gets to see Phillies games on TV.
Once they have gathered 500 statements through the website, the fans plan to deliver them directly to Senator Specter.
More information: www.freetheflyers.com