FCC Postpones Cablevision-GSN Hearing

A Federal Communications Commission hearing in the years-long carriage dispute between Cablevision Systems and GSN has been pushed back until mid-July after the FCC administrative law judge and parties involved agreed to the delay in hopes of getting some guidance from the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Tennis Channel/Comcast suit.

According to the judge's order, after a conference call March 21, all the parties decided it would be worthwhile to postpone the hearing from April 2 to July 16 "so the participants may consider further discovery and possible benefit from the guidance of the court should it release its decision on Comcast Cable v. FCC."

Officials at Cablevision and GSN declined to comment on the delay, which was first reported by CableFAX.

GSN first filed a carriage complaint with the FCC in Oct. 2011, alleging that Cablevision discriminated against the channel by moving it from a basic tier to a premium sports tier on its systems in February 2011. The change, GSN claimed, caused its ratings to “crater” in the New York metropolitan area, where Cablevision has about 3 million customers, and resulted in a loss of subscribers for the network.

GSN claimed Cablevision used its market power to favor its own affiliated networks like WeTV and the now-defunct Wedding Central channel, which did not change channel positions.

In May 2012 the FCC said the case should be heard before an administrative law judge, adding that while it was not reaching aconclusion regarding the merits of the case, GSN ‘s arguments warranted a full hearing.

"After reviewing GSN's complaint, we find that GSN has put forth sufficient evidence supporting the elements of its program carriage discrimination claim to establish a prima facie case," the bureau said.

Oral arguments in the Comcast-Tennis Channel appellate case were heard in February, with a three-judge panel criticizing the FCC’s handling of the matter. An FCC judge had ruled that Comcast discriminated against the Tennis Channel by forcing it onto a sports tier while its own networks the Golf Channel and Versus (now NBC Sports Network) were carried on a more widely available basic tier. The agency’s remedy was to provide Tennis Channel with the same level of distribution – basic, tiered or not at all – as it did its affiliated networks. Comcast appealed that decision, the first of its kind by the FCC, first with the FCC (which upheld the ruling) and later with the court.