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Bloomberg to FCC: Comcast Can -- and Should -- Move Its TV Channels

Bloomberg made its last pitch to the FCC Tuesday that Comcast is violating the "news neighborhooding" condition of the NBCU deal order.

After Comcast declined to move Bloomberg's TV channel into news groupings/neighborhoods following the implementation of that order, Bloomberg cried foul.

In its answer to Comcast's response to Bloomberg's program carriage complaint, Bloomberg says that its case hinges on two points: 1) whether the condition applies to news groupings being carried by Comcast on the date the FCC approved the deal and are still being carried, and 2) whether those groupings qualify as "neighborhoods" under that condition.

Bloomberg's answer is yes to both, saying it gets that from the plain language of the order.

Comcast has countered that the FCC language applies to future neighborhooding, and not to current groupings of only a few channels, which aren't what the FCC meant by neighborhoods.

Bloomberg in its filing -- a redacted copy of which was supplied to B&C/Multi -- argued that Comcast has made some 10,000 channel switches in the past 11 months, undercutting its argument that the condition, if read as Bloomberg reads it, would be a burden for the company that the FCC did not intend to impose.

"They have argued that one of the reasons they could not possibly obey the order is that it would be enormously disruptive, indeed virtually impossible as a technological matter. Yet we find that over the last 11 months, they have moved networks on their own systems over 10,000 times," said Greg Babyak, head of government affairs for Bloomberg. "It is hard to see how they can quite easily move their own channels around and yet it becomes impossible to move channels when ordered by the FCC."

Bloomberg also argued that the groupings in question are neighborhoods "consistent with industry practice." While Comcast has argued the complaint should be sent to the FCC's administrative law judge, Bloomberg argues that need not be the case. "We believe that is totally unnecessary," said Babyak. "[Comcast] stated up front that they would hope that the FCC would reject our complaint, which suggests the decision can be made by the commission and its bureau."

Bloomberg wants the FCC to require Comcast to carry Bloomberg TV in its news "neighborhoods" in the top 35 markets within 60 days, but has not ruled out pushing for more markets, says Babyak. "Obviously top 35 covers most of the waterfront," he says, but adds that was as far as they had gotten in confirming they could assert there were neighborhoods that they should be in. And if there are others? "We haven't requested that yet, but it certainly isn't ruled out by what we have requested," he said.