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Comcast/Tennis Channel Agree to Mediation

Comcast and
The Tennis Channel have agreed to try mediation of their carriage
dispute before trying their luck before an FCC administrative law judge.

That is according to a one-page filing with the FCC.
They have agreed to complete that mediation by Nov. 24.

The FCC earlier this month designated Tennis Channel's program access complaint for a hearing before the judge,

saying that there are "substantial and material question of fact as to
whether Comcast has engaged in conduct that violates the program
carriage provisions of the ACT and the Commission's rules."

The FCC has not answered those questions, but it wants a judge to help it do so.

Comcast had
said earlier this month it was "look[ing] forward to refuting this
groundless complaint in a full evidentiary hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge at the FCC," but the judge also
gave the companies until this week to decide whether to seek mediation
first. Both parties had to agree, and both did.

Channel argues that Comcast is favoring its own similarly situated
networks Versus and Golf Channel by placing them on more widely viewed
The complaint stems
from Comcast's decision to keep the Tennis Channel on a premium sports
tier rather than a more broadly distributed programming tier.

The decision
to seek mediation could be seen as a D.C.-friendly move. In the wake of
the Fox/Cablevision retrans dispute, regulators and legislators by the
scores have encouraged parties in carriage
disputes to seek outside help to prevent consumers from being the
injured third party in such impasses, though the issue has been
primarily about access to TV stations. 

"We're glad that they're talking and hope they can work it out," said Public knowledge spokesman Art Brodsky. He said he was suprised the complaint had not been settled by now given Comcast's desire to get the NBCU joint venture approved in Washington, something he had speculated about in a blog posting about the complaint.