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Commissioner Bud Selig is trying to negotiate a TV deal between the Nats and Orioles.
"We are in the midst of very intense discussions," Selig said during his annual All-Star Q&A lunch with members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. "That's all I can tell you. Very intense."
Asked if there's a timetable for the issue to be resolved, the commissioner cracked: "Yeah, about a month ago. But we'll keep moving that ahead until we get [a resolution], as quickly as possible."
The ongoing dispute stems from a provision in the Nationals' contract with MASN (the majority of which is owned by the Orioles) that allows them to renegotiate their annual rights fee every five years. The Nationals, who last year earned $29 million from the network, are asking for about three times as much in rights fees; the Orioles are offering tens of millions of dollars less.
Unable to resolve the dispute on their own, the two clubs are now at the mercy of a three-person committee from the commissioner's office. Selig's office initially set a June 1 deadline for a resolution, which was later pushed back to July 1. A deal still has not been struck.
Selig was influential in the original negotiation of a deal that was designed to placate owner Peter Angelos in exchange for allowing the Montreal Expos to move to what had been classified as the Orioles' market in late 2004. The deal stipulated that the Orioles owned 90 percent of the newly formed TV network, with the Nationals' share slowly rising to as much as 33 percent over decades.
Selig was asked today whether he's troubled at all by the fact a Nationals franchise that is growing in popularity has its television rights controlled by a rival club.
"No, that was part of a process that was really complicated," he said. "You can second-guess anything in history ... but I can't second-guess that. We just have to work our way through this. And disputes between clubs are not uncommon. That's frankly why you have a commissioner. So I wouldn't say that. That was a deal that had to be worked out."