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Bloomberg Wins FCC Complaint Against Comcast

Comcast must move Bloomberg TV to its news neighborhoods
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No more searching in the nosebleed numbers for Bloomberg TV on Comcast Cable's lineup. The Federal Communications Commission's media bureau Wednesday ordered Comcast to move Bloomberg TV next to other news channels, such as Comcast-owned MSNBC and CNBC, on its news lineups.

The order was a big win for Bloomberg, which filed a complaint against Comcast last June for violating the neighborhooding condition the FCC placed on the merger between Comcast and NBC Universal.

To prevent Comcast from favoring its own programming, such as CNBC and MSNBC over others, the FCC required Comcast to carry all independent news and business news channels next to other similar channels on line ups where Comcast has program neighborhoods.

In its complaint, Bloomberg argued that Bloomberg TV was often 100 or more channel positions away from other news channels on Comcast's lineups.

"We are pleased the FCC had the foresight to include the news neighborhooding condition in the Comcast/NBCU merger order and the willingness to enforce it," said Greg Babyak, head of government affairs for Bloomberg. "Many in the public interest community have worked tirelessly with us to promote the availability of independent sources of news to the public, and we look forward to working with Comcast to implement the order over the next 60 days."

Comcast said it intends to appeal the order 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, the vp of government communications for Comcast said in an emailed statement. "Since by definition no 'discrimination' against Bloomberg in favor of CNBC could have taken place before the NBCU transaction, any retrospective condition on this subject would have been arbitrary and capricious."

Comcast also took issue with the FCC's definition of a neighborhood as four channels. "There is simply no support in any record for a four-channel definition of a 'neighborhood," Fitzmaurice said.

The FCC's decision was a long time in coming, so long that Bloomberg recently filed new evidence that Comcast has created or changed some of news neighborhoods on other systems in order to put pressure on the Commission to act.

As the complaint dragged on, public interest groups began to question whether the FCC was even serious about enforcing its own conditions. While the order was applauded, groups still thought it took way too long to get there.

"If policymakers are to insist on conditions for large mergers and other transactions, it is essential that those conditions are enforced with all deliberate speed," said Gigi Sohn, the president and CEO of Public Knowledge. "This relatively minor complaint has been pending for nearly a year, and the discussions surrounding it have been ongoing for months longer.