Comcast and Time Warner’s $17.6bln purchase of Adelphia was approved on a 4-1 vote Thurs with the expected sports programming conditions. Michael Copps was the nay vote (surprise), while fellow Dem Jonathan Adelstein dissented in part (he wanted network neutrality conditions imposed). "Consumers will see their cable bills climb higher," Copps warned, while complaining about big media growing larger. The anticipated regional sports net conditions require Comcast and Time Warner to undergo arbitration for disputes over pricing or access to their RSNs. As expected, Comcast SportsNet Philly is exempt from the requirement, but overbuilder RCN scored a victory. The FCC opted to grandfather in companies that already have deals for the Philly RSN. That means Comcast can’t deny the programming to RCN when its existing contract expires in Sept, but the MSO can continue to withhold the net from DBS rivals. The FCC’s order also says that RSNs not affiliated with the 2 cable operators can elect commercial arbitration if they are unable to reach carriage. Comcast and Mid Atlantic Sports Net will have to enter into binding arbitration over their 16-month dispute that has kept Washington Nationals games off the air in the MSO’s DC area systems. New commish Robert McDowell was given credit for that provision. "Apparently, [MASN’s complaint] has been left to rot in some small crypt somewhere in this building," he said. PBS Kids Sprout: FCC commish Deborah Taylor Tate was instrumental in a provision that requires Comcast to offer a 2-year extension before companies are required to purchase PBS Kids Sprout VOD programming through its Comcast Media Center (Cfax, 5/23). TVN announced a multi-year deal to continue distributing the VOD channel yesterday.

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