Score one for the little guy. An arbitrator determined last week that Massillon Cable‘s dispute with Fox RSN Fox Sports Net OH is arbitrable under the FCC‘s ’04 order granting News Corp control of DirecTV. That order carried conditions that let multichannel providers seek arbitration for RSN contracts in some instances. News Corp told the FCC this week that FSN Ohio intends to seek an immediate review of the decision. The spat dates back to when FSN OH lost the rights to Cleveland Indians baseball in Dec ’05 because the team opted to create its own RSN. Massillon argued that it should be charged a lower rate since FSN OH stopped providing Indians games, and the 2 have been unable to reach an agreement, according to an attorney representing Massillon. Fox has argued that the spat is not arbitrable because Massillon has a contract in place to carry FSN OH programming through the end of 2008. It believes the 2004 order requiring News Corp RSNs to submit to arbitration only applies when a contract has expired or when a provider is seeking to initiate a contract. "Fox’s attempt to limit the effectiveness of the Fox/Hughes Order was clearly not consistent with the intent of the FCC’s decision. Now that we are past this initial delay, I look forward to the final decision of the Arbitrator," Massillon pres Robert Gessner said. News Corp counsel met with members of the FCC Media Bureau on Tues to discuss its concerns, calling Massillon’s demand for arbitration an "abuse" of the FCC’s 2004 order. Massillon isn’t the only one seeking arbitration with News Corp over its RSNs. NCTC filed a request on behalf of 30 of its members in Jan. It’s seeking to serve as a bargaining agent for those operators and receive confidential info from members to negotiate a deal. The Massillon decision also comes as some parties, including ACA, are calling for stricter conditions on the proposed Liberty-DirecTV merger. Under the deal, Liberty would receive News Corp’s stakes in 3 regional sports channels (FSN NW, FSN Pittsburgh, FSN Rocky Mountain). Liberty has agreed to abide by program-access and carriage conditions imposed in the 2004 News Corp order.

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