The Word Has Words for FCC, FTC About Comcast

WASHINGTON — The Word Network has filed complaints against Comcast at the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission over Comcast’s reduction of its carriage, a representative for the network confirms.

The Word is a religious network targeted to African- Americans. According to a summary of the complaints, which included a laundry list of issues, The Word wants the FCC and FTC to investigate “the unjust removal of the network,” a lack of overall diversity, retransmission-consent issues and even executive compensation.

In a press release announcing the complaints, the network also said that after it contacted Comcast about the reduction in carriage and asked the reason, it was told “because we are Comcast, and we can.”

Comcast executives speaking on background said that was not accurate.

The “unjust removal” is the issue on point with the carriage dispute and Comcast clearly disputes that.

“We continuously evaluate the content we deliver to our customers,” Comcast said in a statement. “As part of this ongoing process, we determined that The Impact Network provides a broader array of programming than The Word Network, which led us to our decision to increase Impact’s distribution. We are also continuing to carry The Word Network to millions of our customers in the Midwest and South based on its appeal in those regions.”

According to those Comcast executives, having done that content analysis, it decided to reduce The Word’s carriage in the West and Northeast and increased Impact’s carriage there.

The Comcast executives pointed out that Impact was minority-owned, while The Word is not; The Word’s content is largely ministries, with many ministers also appearing on other networks; Impact offers family, financial planning and entertainment programming; and, in looking at both, the MSO made a business decision to reduce The Word’s carriage and increase Impact’s distribution.

As for the diversity criticism, Comcast executives noted that just last week, the MSO was named by Fortune magazine as one of the top 50 companies for diversity (number 12, the only cable company on the list), and is adding more Hispanic and African-American networks per the conditions on the Comcast-NBCUniversal deal.

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.