Bloomberg Threatens FCC ComplaintOver Comcast Neighborhooding Condition

Bloomberg said Friday it plans to
file a complaint at the FCC asking it to enforce the "news
neighborhooding" condition in the Comcast/NBCU order, which it alleges
Comcast is ignoring.

Comcast says Bloomberg has
misinterpreted the condition. Comcast reads the condition as preventing it from
repositioning CNBC to favor it post merger. It says it has not changed its
lineup from pre-merger, when it did not own CNBC.

The order prevents Comcast from
discriminating on the basis of affiliation or nonaffiliation, which it is not
supposed to do anyway under existing program carriage rules. But it also says
that "if Comcast "neighborhoods" its news (including business news)
channels, it must include all unaffiliated news (or business news) channels in
that neighborhood."

Bloomberg was concerned that
Comcast could favor, say, its newly acquired CNBC
over Bloomberg's business news service. "The FCC's Order requires Comcast
to include independent news channels such as Bloomberg Television in any news
or business news neighborhoods in the channel lineups on Comcast's cable
systems because of the "special importance of news programming to the public
interest," said Bloomberg. "Underscoring its importance, the FCC
highlighted this condition in its own press release announcing the decision.
Since the FCC's Order [was approved] on January 18, 2011, Comcast has taken no steps to comply with the independent
news provision of the Order."

According to Bloomberg's interpretation, examples of Comcast's failure to comply includes in Washington, D.C., where it carries CNN, Headline News, CNBC, MSNBC, and Fox News on adjacent channels 35-39 and Blooomberg Television on channel 103, and in Seattle, where it is carries those same nets on adjacent channels 44-48, but Bloomberg on 128 between Nickelodeon and an empty channel.

Bloomberg says it will file that
complaint unless Comcast agrees to place Bloomberg TV in its existing news
neighborhoods in the 35 most populous DMA's within the next 60 days.

"Bloomberg simply
misinterprets the 'neighborhooding' condition in the FCC's Comcast NBCUniversal
transaction Order. 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. Bloomberg is not
entitled to any relief pursuant to its threatened complaint."

Comcast says that if it were to do
what Bloomberg asks, it would be consumer unfriendly and confusing.

"If Comcast is forced to do
what Bloomberg wants the FCC to mandate beyond the requirements of the FCC
Order," said the company, "millions of customers will be subject to
disruption and confusion required by massive channel realignments across the
country, all to benefit an already thriving, $30 billion media company. It is
hard to imagine a more anti-consumer result that would be less in the public

Bloomberg said it had served
notice on Comcast and, if it does not start complying, it would file a formal
complaint with the FCC, which it can do 10 days after serving that formal notice.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.