Battle over broadcasting Padres games in San Diego continues; public hearings called

Feud between Time Warner Cable, Fox Sports

SAN DIEGO - San Diego City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner on Friday announced her plan to hold a public hearing in an effort to resolve differences between Time Warner Cable and Fox Sports San Diego over broadcasting Padres baseball games this year.

Lightner, who holds the No. 2 leadership position on the council, said the hearing would take place at a special meeting of the Rules and Economic Development Committee. A date has not been set, but Lightner said it would come in the next couple of weeks.

Her statement follows a letter sent to cable company executives by Mayor Bob Filner, who wrote that he would take steps to resolve the issue before opening day.

Time Warner provides cable service in Lightner's district under a franchise agreement with the city.

After Fox Sports opened its San Diego station last year and won Padres broadcast rights, it failed to reach a deal with Time Warner Cable to carry the channel. Residents in San Diego's northern neighborhoods were unable to watch the local team's games last season.

With about a month left before the 2013 opening day, the two sides still have not reached agreement.

"The message from my constituents is loud and clear -- they want to be able to watch their hometown baseball team on television," Lightner said. "The city of San Diego needs to explore all its options to see how it can help deliver the Padres to the people."

"Padres to the People" was a slogan created last year by U-T San Diego to promote a fan protest movement over the impasse.

Lightner asked City Attorney Jan Goldsmith to outline what powers the city might bring to bear via the franchise agreement with Time Warner Cable to compel the company to negotiate an agreement.

She said she will also ask representatives from Fox Sports San Diego and Time Warner Cable to attend the hearing to discuss current roadblocks for the deal. Representatives from the mayor's office will also be invited.

Last month, Filner sent a letter to Time Warner Cable Chairman and CEO Glenn Britt and Executive Vice President Melinda Witmer, in which he questioned the company's "true motivations" and has pursued sports programming more aggressively in Los Angeles than San Diego.

"As mayor, I will do everything in my power to ensure San Diegans around the region are able to follow and support their hometown baseball team," wrote Filner in a letter obtained by U-T San Diego. "Rest assured, I will continue to monitor this situation and am prepared to take the steps necessary to bring about a resolution prior to the 2013 baseball season."

Fox Sports is carried on Cox Cable, which serves the southern half of the county, AT&T U-Verse, and satellite providers DirecTV, and Dish Network.

Time Warner released a statement that read, "We maintain open lines of communication with all the elected officials in the areas we serve to make sure we're hearing both their concerns and those of their constituents. We always welcome an open conversation, but this is a dispute between two private parties."

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