FCC rule could affect Cox agreement with Padres

The staff of the Federal Communications Commission will begin circulating a proposed rule change Wednesday aimed at closing a loophole that allows only Cox Communications to air Padres baseball games, it was reported.

The so-called terrestrial loophole in the Cable Act of 1992 allows cable companies to sidestep open-competition requirements in connection with certain local programming, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

The issue had been particular controversial in San Diego, where Cox has the exclusive rights to distribute Padres games, and in Philadelphia, where Comcast controls rights for certain other professional sports teams, the Union-Tribune reported.

The goal of the act was to stop cable companies from thwarting upstarts, such as DirecTV, by locking up popular programs. The terrestrial loophole was added for local channels that don’t rely on satellite feeds.

Competitors have long argued that Padres games as must have’’ content for many potential subscribers, the Union-Tribune reported.

Circulating a possible rule change is just one step in the FCC process. For any change to take effect, the commission must approve closing the loophole. No vote has been scheduled on the matter, according to the Union-Tribune.