Judge: Trial can decide fate of MLB TV broadcasts

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 8, 2014 at 5:56 pm •  Published: August 8, 2014
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NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball cannot hide behind its antitrust exemption to fend off a lawsuit from fans who say the league unjustly dictates television markets for its ballclubs, a judge says.

U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin's ruling came after two lawsuits were brought by fans against MLB and the National Hockey League to stop their strict control over television broadcast rights.

The judge wrote that exceptions to antitrust laws are to be construed narrowly and noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has "expressly questioned the validity and logic of the baseball exemption and declined to extend it to other sports."

Thus, she said, she was declining to apply the exemption to "a subject that is not central to the business of baseball, and that Congress did not intend to exempt — namely baseball's contracts for television broadcasting rights."

She said the lawsuits could proceed to trial as fans try to show that the leagues should be forced to open television markets for their games so customers would have more options at less expensive prices to watch games across the country. She said a trial would help show whether the leagues were accurate in saying the restrictions are good for the sports and their fans.

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