FCC Hands Bloomberg TV Big Win in Comcast Lineup Dispute

Comcast must place Bloomberg TV next to other news channels in its lineup

In a big win for Bloomberg TV, the Federal Communications Commission upheld a decision its media bureau made last year ordering Comcast to move Bloomberg TV next to other news channels on its lineup, called "neighborhoods."

The order was finally released Thursday evening after the commission removed the item from the public agenda for its monthly meeting. It requires Comcast to move Bloomberg TV into a news neighborhood when there are four of five news channels adjacent to each other in a channel lineup.

Bloomberg first filed its complaint against Comcast in May 2011. In its complaint, Bloomberg TV argued that Comcast was not complying with the FCC's condition on the Comcast-NBCUniversal deal that Comcast must place independent news channels together where it has created news neighborhoods.

The FCC's condition was crafted to protect news channels from being placed in the nosebleed numbers compared to the more desirable channels occupied by Comcast's own MSNBC and CNBC.

"CNBC is included in a news neighborhood in 99 percent of lineups that have news neighborhoods. For MSNBC, its 98 percent," wrote FCC acting chairwoman Mignon Clyburn. "If you are a news channel, you'd better be located in the 'news neighborhood,' or viewers are going to be significantly less likely to find you." 

"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,” Greg Babyak, head of government affairs for Bloomberg said in a statement.

Comcast fought long and hard against the complaint and the first decision issued last May. The cable giant argued that it had a First Amendment right to determine channel placement. It also argued about the definition of what comprised a news neighborhood. 

Disappointed with the outcome, Comcast said the FCC went too far. "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," said Sena Fitzmaurice, vp of government communications for Comcast.