Big Win For Bloomberg TV: FCC Rules In Its Favor In Comcast Dispute

By Alex Weprin 

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Breaking: Comcast subscribers should expect to see Bloomberg TV next to Fox News, CNN and CNBC in the coming weeks.

The FCC has found in Bloomberg’s favor in its long-running complaint with Comcast. In case you aren’t up to speed: Bloomberg argued to the FCC that–as part of its deal to acquire NBCUniversal– Comcast promised to place “independent” news networks in the same channel “neighborhoods” as the major TV news channels.

Today, the FCC said that yes, Comcast must place Bloomberg TV in the same neighborhoods as its competitors like CNBC and Fox Business, as well as general news channels like CNN or Fox News (read the full FCC decision after the jump). If a Comcast region has multiple news “neighborhoods,” then Bloomberg must be placed in one of them.

Comcast says it “respectfully disagree[s]” with the decision, and that it will immediately file an appeal. Comcast’s full statement is after the jump.

Theoretically, the decision could open the floodgates for lawsuits from other independent programmers such as Current TV, Al Jazeera or BBC World News, which will argue that they too deserve to be placed in those neighborhoods.  FBN and similar networks would not be eligible because they are associated with larger media companies. The FCC attempted to somewhat undercut potential lawsuits by strictly defining a news channel as such in the decision:

Based on the definition of “independent news channel”58 and the phrasing of the news neighborhooding condition, we 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.

That would seem to exclude Current TV, at least for now, though Current is expected to ramp up its original dayside programming in the next few months.

Either way, this decision is a big, big deal.

It means that Bloomberg TV will immediately be much easier to find for Comcast customers (Comcast is the country’s largest cable provider), and opens the possibility of other independent news channels such as BBC World News filing complaints of their own.

It also means that Comcast channel lineups may have to change to make room for Bloomberg and any other news channels that secure carriage in news neighborhoods.

The FCC decision may have answered some questions, but it opens the door for many more. Stay tuned.

Comcast’s statement:

“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.  Since by definition, no ‘discrimination’ against Bloomberg in favor of CNBC could have taken place before the NBCUniversal transaction, any retrospective condition on this subject would have been arbitrary and capricious. And there is simply no support in any record for a four channel definition of a ‘neighborhood.’

We plan to immediately appeal to the full Commission and believe they will agree to enforce only conditions as they were originally negotiated and intended and that the Media Bureau’s mis-interpretation will be overturned.”

Bloomberg’s statement:

“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.

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.”

– Greg Babyak, Head of Government Affairs, Bloomberg LP

Read the FCC decision: