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Chairman Wants to Vet Tennis Channel Decision Given Precedential Weight

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is proposing that the FCC stay enforcement of the Tennis Channel program carriage complaint against Comcast so that the commissioners can put some fresh eyes on it given that it was the first such finding, according to an FCC source who has seen the proposal.

He has issues with the decision -- see below -- and his proposed order says the stay will allow that reexamination of the record while "avoiding potential disruption to consumers and third-party programmers in the event that the commission subsequently reverses or modifies the ALJ's remedy."

The commission Wednesday issued a temporary stay of the administrative law judge decision in December 2011 in favor of Tennis Channel. That is so the commissioners can consider the chairman's proposed order that the decision be stayed to "preserve the status quo while the commission has adequate opportunity to re-examine the record in the ALJ's disposition of each issue closely."

Given that the decision was the first to mandate program carriage, according to the chairman's proposal, "it presents important issues that are likely to occur in future program carriage adjudications."

Among the issues the chairman has with the ALJ decision is that it "imposes a tier placement remedy without providing guidance on compensation and imposes a channel-placement remedy that is not defined."

Comcast had sought a stay, but this one is on the commission's own motion, says the order, which moots Comcast's request.

The order says it expects the stay to be relatively brief. Under its own revamped program carriage complaint process, which it adopted in August of 2011, the commission must adopt an order on review of the initial decision within five months of the date of the last pleading was filed--a Tennis channel spokesperson says that was Feb. 8- though it can also issue an order stating that it needs more time.