L.A. Dodgers Say Fox Avoiding Competition for TV Rights

The Los Angeles Dodgers accused News Corp.’s Fox Sports of trying to avoid competition in its pursuit of the bankrupt baseball team’s television rights.

Fox has sought to prevent the team from soliciting offers for the TV rights before an exclusive negotiating period with Fox ends next year.

Fox’s complaints “have no merit and are designed to prevent the debtors from engaging in any effort to expose the debtors’ telecast rights to the marketplace to the extent an agreement is not reached with Fox,” the Dodgers said in papers filed today in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware.

The Dodgers filed for bankruptcy in June with plans to sell the television rights, which Fox Sports Net West 2 LLC holds through the 2013 season. The team wants to accelerate the marketing process for the rights by first giving Fox 45 days to extend its contract. Should that fail, the team would seek other bids, according to court documents.

Fox claims team owner Frank McCourt is wrongly trying use bankruptcy to break the team’s current TV contract with Fox’s Prime Ticket unit. Fox has asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross to dismiss the team’s bankruptcy case.

Gross has ordered the two sides to try to resolve their differences through mediation. The mediator, retired U.S. District Judge Joseph Farnan, helped the Dodgers and Major League Baseball resolve their differences.

MLB Deal

Under the deal with MLB, McCourt agreed to sell the team and MLB agreed not to oppose a separate bidding process for the television rights. Under the proposed rules, no sale of the TV rights can go forward without approval from MLB, Gross and whoever wins the bidding for the team.

The Dodgers will be in court Nov. 30 to ask Gross to approve the proposed marketing rules.

The bankruptcy case is In re Los Angeles Dodgers LLC, 11-12010 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

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