Biz channel must be placed with similar networks

The FCC has ruled that Comcast should carry Bloomberg TV within the same “neighborhood” as other news networks, siding with the business channel in its complaint that the cable giant had not fulfilled a condition of its combination with NBC Universal last year.

Bloomberg LP had filed a complaint last year that its channel was not in the same location on Comcast’s channel lineup as other news channels, including its NBCU-owned competitor CNBC.

One of federal regulators’ conditions to which Comcast agreed when it combined with NBCU called for it to carry all independent news and business channels in the same vicinity of the channel lineup if it collects such networks in a neighborhood of similar programming.

The FCC order from William Lake, chief of the media bureau, concluded that Bloomberg “is not included in such neighborhoods on some systems” and asked Comcast for additional information so it could determine if action was necessary on other systems.

Bloomberg LP had opposed the Comcast-NBCU transaction until the neighborhooding condition was inserted.

The FCC ruled that four news or business channels within any five adjacent channel positions qualifies as a “neighborhood.” Comcast had argued that the sum of channels was an “arbitrary and baseless definition.”

Comcast said that it planned to appeal to the full commission.

“We respectfully disagree with the Media Bureau’s interpretation of the ‘neighborhooding’ condition, which so clearly rewrites the history and any permissible underlying rationale for the condition,” Sena Fitzmaurice, senior VP of government communications, said in a statement. “Since, by definition, no ‘discrimination’ against Bloomberg in favor of CNBC could have taken place before the NBCUniversal transaction, any retrospective condition on this subject would have been arbitrary and capricious. And there is simply no support in any record for a four-channel definition of a ‘neighborhood.’”

In December the FCC ruled in favor of the Tennis Channel in its complaint that Comcast was giving preferential treatment to channels in which it has a stake, like the Golf Channel, while placing Tennis Channel in the upper tiers. A decision is expected soon from the full commission on Comcast’s request for a stay of the order as it pursues an appeal.

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