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Jazz television game controversy strikes home in Carbon County

The blackout of 13 additional Jazz games being aired this season on FSN Utah ("FSN"), (formerly Fox Sports Rocky Mountain) will affect many Rural Utah Cable TV and satellite customers including those in Carbon and Emery counties.

The Utah Jazz made all 82 games this year available to television viewers when they agreed to air 13 additional games this season which have not been carried during previous seasons. The Utah Jazz put these additional games out for bid earlier this fall. Two of the companies biding for them were Comcast, (the largest Cable TV operator in Utah) and FSN, with FSN landing the highest bid.

On Monday night Nov. 7 when Precis customers tuned to FSN to watch what they thought was going to be a Jazz vs Charlotte basketball game found themselves instead watching alternate programming. This repeated again Nov. 9, 11, 12 and 14 when these games were blacked out.

Similar blackouts will continue for games scheduled this year on Dec. 14, 16, 21 and 23. It will also affect games next year (2006) on Jan. 1, 7, 9 and 11.

Shane Baggs of Precis says that the devil is in the details on these blackouts and explained the situation to the Sun Advocate.

The NBA charges fees for games being aired to providers, (i.e. cable TV and satellite providers.) These fees are split into two categories, one for providers serving homes that fall within what is called the "inner NBA market" (homes that fall within a 75-mile radius of the Delta Center).

The other is for providers serving homes in the "extended NBA market" which includes homes beyond a 75-mile radius of the Delta Center, and usually at a higher fee than the inner market.

"During a telephone conversation with a FSN representative I was informed FSN had made a business decision not to carry the additional 13 games in the outer NBA market area," said Baggs. "Because Carbon and Emery Counties are located in the outer market this FSN decision left Precis and Satellite customers unable to watch these additional 13 games."

Baggs says that posturing in the Salt Lake area has affected service in the local area.

"As you may have seen in the Salt Lake Media, Comcast, (the largest Cable TV provider in Utah) who covers much of the inner NBA market area has opted not to carry the games due to high carriage costs," said Baggs. "Comcast estimates are seven figures per year. The Utah Jazz and FSN Utah have published a toll free number, (866-814-JAZZ) for fans to call if they are not receiving these games. If you call this number the greeting you will hear is, every single cable and satellite provider has agreed to carry all the Jazz games this year except one, Comcast. This is not true."

Baggs says the phone message then tells callers there are two options. One option is for Comcast customers and the message does mention some areas may be affected by territorial restrictions. Option two is for satellite customers or other cable customers.

"If this option is selected you get two additional options, one for DirecTV the other for Dish Network. Both these messages tell their customers they will get all the games," he said. "This is not true either as their customers outside the 75 mile radius are not able to receive all the games. No message for other cable customers can be found."

Baggs says in addition, the Utah Jazz failed to note blackout restrictions in their listing of televised games being aired this season, nor did FSN Utah provide notice to Rural Cable TV providers informing them of the blackout restrictions. The lack of information coming from the Utah JAZZ and FSN has caused growing frustration among rural Utah Jazz fans who do not understand why they cannot watch all the games being televised on FSN.

"As a cable TV provider outside the 75-mile radius, Precis cannot carry these additional games even if we were willing to pay for them," he said. "However it is important that cable TV and satellite customers outside the 75-mile radius know they are still going to receive the same number of games this season as last on FSN Utah. That is a total of 27 games. In addition they will receive 40 games on KJZZ and two games on TNT. This is a total of 69 out of an 82 game schedule."

Local fans who would like to voice their opinion regarding this issue can contact the Utah Jazz at (801) 325-2500.

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