FCC Reaffirms Decision In Bloomberg TV-Comcast Dispute

By Alex Weprin Comment

ComcastBloombergLogoThe FCC has affirmed the decision of its Media Bureau, which ruled that as a condition of acquiring NBCUniversal, Comcast is obligated to place Bloomberg TV in the same news channel “neighborhoods” as competitors like CNBC and Fox Business.

Comcast has been fighting the decision since it was handed down last year, arguing that it would cause “significant and unwarranted burdens on us, our customers, and other programming networks.” Comcast will now have to make room for Bloomberg TV in the same neighborhoods, likely leading to new channel lineups for its customers, and making some existing channels unhappy.

The decision could also set a precedent, as other independent news channels try to gain carriage on Comcast. Al Jazeera America could very well argue that it too deserves to be neighborhooded near CNN and Fox News. Comcast, America’s largest cable provider, carries AJAM in many markets.

When the Media Council ruled in favor of Bloomberg TV last year, it defined news channels strictly, but in a way that AJAM would seem to fall into:

[W]e conclude that the term “news channels,” as used in the condition, refers to channels whose programming during the hours from 6:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. is focused on reporting and analysis relating to public affairs or local affairs of general interest or relating to business.

The dueling statements from Comcast and Bloomberg:

“We are disappointed that the FCC failed to constrain the Media Bureau’s overly broad construction of the News Neighborhooding Condition,” says Sena Fitzmaurice, VP of Government Communications for Comcast, in a statement. “As it is currently being interpreted, the condition goes well beyond the express language of the FCC’s Comcast-NBCUniversal Order and what is justified by the evidence in that case. The FCC’s interpretation very likely will lead to significant and unwarranted burdens on us, our customers, and other programming networks. We are evaluating our options.”

“The Commission was correct in January 2011, when it deemed the condition necessary to ensure that the merger was in the public interest,” says Greg Babyak, Head of Government Affairs for Bloomberg LP, in a statement. “The Commission is correct today, in moving to keep the important promise it made to the public. We very much appreciate the diligent work of so many at the Commission and in the public interest community in promoting the availability to the public of diverse sources of news.”