Bloomberg Puts Comcast on Notice

Warns of potential FCC complaint over "neighborhooding" channels

Comcast may have closed its deal to take control of NBCUniversal, but those pesky conditions that came with the deal—conditions imposed by regulators and agreed to by Comcast—are still dogging it.

Bloomberg, one of the TV programmers that opposed the deal, put Comcast on notice Friday that it intends to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission against the media giant for failing to comply with a condition that requires Comcast to arrange channels within "neighborhoods," for example, placing Bloomberg Television in a news or business news neighborhood.

The dispute stems from the fact that Comcast is carrying channels, like business news network CNBC, that it owns as a result of the NBCU deal, and presumably has reason to treat favorably. Networks like CNBC and other big cable news channels get good position in Comcast's channel lineup—and, typically, in other providers' lineups as well—while smaller networks like Bloomberg Television are relegated to the nosebleed sections. Bloomberg reads the FCC's January 18 order on the NBCU purchase as requiring Comcast to move Bloomberg Television into a "neighborhood" with the other news channels, while Comcast maintains that the condition just constrains it from giving CNBC specific favorable treatment, and says that since it hasn't moved the news channels since it took over NBCU, it is in compliance. 

Under FCC procedure, Bloomberg may file a formal complaint after giving 10 days notice to Comcast, which it did with a letter it sent Friday to Comcast President Neil Smit. 

"Bloomberg has no choice but to initiate the process of filing a complaint with the Commission because Comcast has refused to discuss in any serious manner implementation of the news neighborhooding condition with Bloomberg," wrote attorneys David Boies of Boies, Schiller & Flexner and Stephen Diaz Gavin of Patton Boggs. "Rather than taking steps to comply with the FCC Order, Comcast has taken the position that the Commission's express direction on the neighborhooding of news channels does not require Comcast to do anything more than it was already doing and, in fact, requires no action by Comcast."

In a statement, Comcast chalked up Bloomberg's position to "misinterpretation."

"Comcast does not 'neighborhood' news channels in the way Bloomberg seeks to be repositioned. Further, Comcast has not repositioned any channels to favor CNBC or any other affiliated news channel," the company said in a statement.

Comcast also argued that a change in the lineup would confuse its millions of customers, "all to benefit an already thriving, $30 billion media company."

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