Comcast to FCC: Deny Bloomberg Complaint

Comcast Wednesday responded to Bloomberg's program carriage complaint over so-called "news neighborhooding," saying Bloomberg is trying to "extract" preferential channel placement treatment and the FCC should deny the complaint.

Bloomberg filed an official complaint last month asking the FCC to make Comcast move Bloomberg TV into "existing news neighborhoods" as defined by Bloomberg, within 60 days in the top 35 DMA's in the country.

Comcast was originally supposed to respond by July 13, but asked for and got the extra time.

Bloomberg complained that Comcast had violated the terms of one of the binding conditions in the Comcast/NBCU deal agreement with the FCC by not moving Bloomberg's TV news channel adjacent to others in Comcast's system lineups after Bloomberg had requested it do so. Comcast counters that the FCC declined to "affirmatively undertake neighborhooding," and instead only required Comcast, if it decided to neighborhood, to include independent news channels.

Comcast argued in its response to the complaint Wednesday that Bloomberg was trying to morph that limited condition into the affirmative requirement the FCC "rejected."

Comcast says Bloomberg's complaint was 1) based on an arbitrary and baseless definition of a news neighborhood as four channels out of five; 2. was inconsistent with the FCC's intent to minimize disruption, such as programmers displaced by the Bloomberg version of neighborhooding and Comcast's customers; and 3) because the condition is prospective while the channel groupings Bloomberg cites were created years before Comcast started negotiating the NBCU deal and, "in most cases," it says, even before Comcast owned the systems.

The cable operator acknowledged it has a number of groupings of four news channels within five channels, but denies that is a new neighborhood or that it represents a "significant number or percentage of channels" because four channels represents only about a quarter of news channels on its systems.

"After a comprehensive review lasting nearly one year, this past January, the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission approved arguably the most significant media merger in history. They did so, however, in reliance on Comcast's compliance with critical merger conditions," said Bloomberg in a statement. "These conditions, which Comcast expressly accepted, were deemed necessary to protect the public interest.

"The FCC expressed in particular its concerns about the importance of independent sources of news. Despite these strongly worded concerns, Comcast is not obeying clearly defined conditions, as Comcast continues to assert that "now" does not mean "now" and that their programming neighborhoods are not neighborhoods.

"We are confident that Chairman Genachowski and his colleagues will enforce this condition..."

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.