FCC Says Comcast Illegally Discriminated Against the Tennis Channel

Regulators recommend the maximum fine

Comcast and the Federal Communications Commission will be in front of Chief Administrative Law Judge Richard Sippel today, arguing over the cable provider's treatment of the Tennis Channel.

The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau said that Comcast should be fined for “discriminatory conduct” against the Tennis Channel and “willful violation” of federal rules that prevent cable companies from favoring channels they own.

The regulators told Sippel that he should force Comcast to put the Tennis Channel on a “widely viewed” tier within the next 30 days, at a price similar to other Comcast-owned sports networks, Versus, and the Golf Channel, and preferably near those other sports channels. (Comcast usually assigns Versus and the Golf Channel numbers between 7 and 20, while the Tennis Channel is relegated to the low 700s.) The FCC also said that “given the gravity of Comcast's anti-competitive conduct,” it recommends that Comcast be hit with the maximum possible fine, $375,000.

Both sides will get the chance to make a 30-minute oral argument to Sippel in Washington today. According to Broadcasting & Cable, Comcast is planning to tell the judge that the FCC’s recommendation is “improper, unsubstantiated, and illegal,” and will argue that mandating carriage would be a violation of the First Amendment.