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DirecTV rejects latest attempt to restart SportsNet LA talks

DirecTV rejects latest attempt to restart SportsNet LA talks
Time Warner Cableand AT&T, parent company of DirecTV, continue to be at odds over SportsNet LA broadcast negotiations. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The latest attempt to end the Dodgers' blackout ended in failure this week, when the parent company of DirecTV declined an invitation from Rep. Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro) to meet with Time Warner Cable in her office.

Instead, AT&T and TWC traded barbs as the Dodgers' SportsNet LA channel remains off the air in most Southern California homes for a third consecutive season. Charter Communications is expected to complete its takeover of TWC next month and could try to negotiate with AT&T thereafter.

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Hahn, who does not have any authority to compel the companies to meet, said she was disappointed that AT&T had declined.

Time Warner Cable accepted Hahn's offer to facilitate a meeting, with or without her. However, in a letter to Hahn, AT&T said any meeting with TWC should be "conducted on a business-to-business basis ... without unproductive public posturing."

The AT&T letter, dated Thursday, also said: "We continue to stand ready to engage with TWC in good-faith negotiations to resolve this dispute when TWC agrees to conduct the negotiations in a professional manner consistent with industry practice of respecting the privacy and confidentiality of those discussions."

AT&T spokesman Michael Balmoris declined to say why the company suggested TWC had acted unprofessionally when the parties had last met and wouldn't say whether there was any price at which AT&T believed it would make sense to carry SportsNet LA.

It is believed AT&T was unhappy when The Times revealed in March that TWC had made short-term offers to try to get SportsNet LA on the air this season.

TWC spokesman Andrew Fegyveresi declined to say whether AT&T had conveyed any concerns about TWC's privacy and confidentiality practices, but he did criticize AT&T for declining to meet under Hahn's auspices.

"This is yet another example of AT&T/DirecTV's unwillingness to negotiate in good faith," he said. "So far, AT&T/DirecTV has rejected every offer, every compromise, and every neutral negotiating forum like arbitration or a meeting with the congresswoman."

Dodgers President Stan Kasten, also without any authority to compel AT&T to meet, has expressed concern that DirecTV might never carry SportsNet LA.

"It's a shame that Time Warner continues to try to make deals with every distributor, and DirecTV refuses to even meet to discuss making a deal," Kasten said.

Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter: @BillShaikin.

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