BC-BBO--MLB-Congress-Regional Sports Networks,1st Ld-Writethru
NEW YORK (AP) — Two congressmen want Major League Baseball to produce documents by April 25 tied to its attempt to purchase control of 21 regional sports networks.
The two Democrats are Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, chairman of the House oversight and reform committee, and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, chairman of the subcommittee on economic and consumer policy.
They wrote to baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred on Thursday, saying they are wary of “anticompetitive conduct.” They asked for documents on potential acquisition and operation of the regional networks plus MLB’s strategies. They also want MLB officials to brief committee staff.
The Walt Disney Co. acquired 22 regional sports networks as part of its $71 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment business last month. The Justice Department said last June that Disney had to sell the networks as a condition of the deal. The Yankees’ YES Network is being sold separately by Disney.
“We are concerned that MLB’s potential expansion of its business to RSNs could increase the risk of anticompetitive conduct that harms American consumers and, in turn, baseball itself,” the congressmen wrote. “This potential expansion also raises the question of whether additional limits on the league’s antitrust exemption are warranted.”
Baseball was granted an antitrust exemption in 1922 by the Supreme Court, which ruled the sport was not interstate commerce. Congress passed a limited cutout that was signed into law in 1998, making the employment of major league players subject to antitrust law.
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