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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Legislators pitch fix for sports TV

Legislation hoping to resolve disagreements between cable
providers and independent networks took another step forward at the Capitol Tuesday
when it was officially introduced to the Legislature.

The bill hopes to prevent blackout areas from games like
Thursday's Packers-Cowboys showdown only available on NFL Network.

The conflict between cable providers in Wisconsin and sports
networks, including the NFL Network and Big Ten Network, stems from
disagreements about package plans and prices, said Eric Schutt, spokesperson
for Rep. Kitty Rhoades, R-Hudson.


Sports networks would like to see their channels included in
the extended basic package most Wisconsin residents have, Schutt said.

Cable providers, however, would like sports channels to be
aired as a separate package, thus requiring customers to pay another fee on top
of cost already being paid, he added.

In order to resolve the ongoing dispute, the proposed Fair
Access to Networks legislation — or FAN legislation — would create third-party
arbitration, Schutt said.

"[The third-person arbitrator] would be chosen by the
American Arbitration Association," he said. "[The bill] is not a mandate, but
creates a legal process for a neutral third party to determine the outcome."

Exasperated by difficulties viewing Badgers and Packers games,
the bill was written with the intent of providing greater access for Wisconsin fans
to watch their teams on TV.

"We get a little sick and tired of how the fans have been
treated," Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, said. "There are only so many times
that [fans] can go to local bars and watch the games."

Hansen said he anticipates a fight against the proposed bill
from cable companies.

"They don't want to be told what to do," Hansen said. "They
don't like our bill. They don't think we should interfere in the free market,
[and] believe that the free market will determine the outcome."

However, University of Wisconsin telecommunications
professor Barry Orton said he believes the state has "no business in the
affairs of private agents." The fight between cable companies and independent
sports networks, Orton added, should not be dealt with by the state.

Orton added if one or both parties involved in the
disagreement do not want to come to an arbitration, a resolution cannot exist.

"The bill can't force arbitration on either part; if one
doesn't want to, then the bill has no impact," Orton said. "The bill will have
no impact in the real world."

There is no force behind the proposed legislation, Orton
said, adding the bill was written as a tool of political propaganda.

"[This bill] is a wonderful way to get sponsors’ names in
the paper,' Orton said. "It's greed and more greed."

Schutt however, said the bill has a purpose: to create a
venue for discussion.

"The general sentiment is people would like to have a
resolution for this process," Schutt said. "[Fans] would like to have an option
one way or another to view the games. Right now, no one has an option, no
matter where the [channel] is placed."

If the bill passes, yet is not followed, there would be
little reprimand, according to Hansen.

"There is no penalty. I don't know what the
penalty would be," Hansen said.

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