Arbitrator Removed in Time Warner, MASN Dispute

Posted February 22, 2008 12:59 p.m. EST
Updated February 22, 2008 2:00 p.m. EST

— An arbitrator who last month ruled that Time Warner Cable was discriminating against a regional sports network that carries Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals baseball games has been removed from the dispute.

Mid-Atlantic Sports Network has waged a high-profile battle with Time Warner for months to get the network onto the cable system's basic tier of service so the programming could be seen by more people.

Time Warner has maintained that it would be unfair to impose the cost of acquiring MASN programming on all customers because interest in the games is low. Instead, the company offered to carry MASN on a digital channel.

In addition to Orioles and Nationals games, the network carries more than 200 football, basketball and lacrosse games involving North Carolina universities, officials have said.

Jerome Sussman, an arbitrator appointed by the Federal Communications Commission, determined last month that Time Warner was discriminating against MASN by limiting the network's audience. He was to review offers made by the two sides to determine the fair market value of moving the network into wider distribution on the cable system.

But the American Arbitration Association removed Sussman from the case Thursday under a rule that arbitrators remain impartial and independent. A new arbitrator hasn't been appointed to handle the case.

MASN spokesman Todd Webster said the arbitration association refused to vacate Sussman's earlier ruling, so the process of expanding the network's presence on Tim Warner's system in North Carolina will continue.