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MASN, Major League Baseball spar over next forum in TV rights dispute

Major League Baseball — despite the objections of the television network controlled by the Baltimore Orioles — said it plans to convene a new aribtration committee to decide the long-running TV rights fee dispute between the Orioles and Washington Nationals.

MLB plans to hold the hearing in August, according to a letter to parties in the case from Joseph C. Shenker, an MLB attorney, released this week by the New York Supreme Court.

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The Orioles and the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, which broadcasts both teams' games, say MLB's Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee is the wrong forum to resolve the matter because it is neither impartial nor independent.

MASN alleged in its own letter that MLB and the Nationals have collaborated on a "coordinated litigation strategy."

"As we have stated previously and continue to believe, the most expeditious path for resolving the telecast rights fee dispute between the Nationals and MASN is arbitration before a neutral forum independent of MLB and outside of MLB's control," said MASN attorney Thomas Hall in the letter, which was released by the court on Tuesday.

At issue is a 2014 decision by an earlier arbitration panel awarding the Nationals about $60 million per year in TV rights fees from MASN — an amount MASN believes is too high. MASN, which is controlled by the Orioles, now pays the neighboring club $40 million annually and the Nationals maintain they are not being paid fair market rates.

In November, a judge tossed out the first panel's decision, concluding that MASN was denied a fair hearing. Court-suggested mediation has not produced a resolution, and MASN said it wouldn't trust a new MLB panel to render a fair decision.

MASN also said permitting a rehearing now is "improper" because it would undermine appeals pending before the court on how the case should proceed.

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