Bloomberg to FCC: Comcast Discriminates Against Our News Show

Wants Bloomberg TV put in the cable giants “news neighborhoods” in 35 major markets

Last Updated: June 13, 2011 @ 1:47 PM

Bloomberg on Monday filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission against Comcast, saying the cable giant has refused requests to place Bloomberg Television in its existing “news neighborhoods.”

Bloomberg want the FCC to require Comcast to carry BTV in any channel grouping containing at least four news channels within a block of five adjacent channel positions in Comcast's 35 most populous designated market areas that carry BTV. 

Its refusal violates a condition of the merger between Comcast and NBC Universal that FCC approved in January 2011, Bloomberg charges. 

"The Commission stressed the critical role of independent news in its Order and indeed, this was a significant component of the conditions that enabled the FCC to have the confidence to move forward with the merger," Greg Babyak, Bloomberg’s head of government affairs, said in a statement. “The FCC wisely placed conditions on the Comcast-NBCU merger in order to protect the public. Comcast affirmatively agreed to those conditions, only to argue now that they don't have to live by them."

Bloomberg says that the cable operator has refused to include BTV in news programming neighborhoods, in favor of positioning its affiliated business news programming, such as CNBC and Fox Business Network.

Comcast says that Bloomberg has misinterpreted the order and that "Comcast does not, and since the transaction has not, ‘neighborhooded’ channels on our systems," Sena Fitzmaurice, Comcast vice president of government communications said in a statement. 

"If Comcast were forced to do what Bloomberg is asking the government to mandate, millions of customers would be subject to disruption and confusion required by massive channel realignments across the country all to benefit an already thriving $30 billion media company," Fitzmaurice said.

Bloomberg, founded in the mid 1980's by New York mayor Michael Bloomberg as a provider real time trading data, has faced many hurdles in its effort to gain relevance and market share as a provider of business and financial news.

The company launched BTV in 1994. In a 2008 reorganization of its news programming, BTV hired top talent from competing news organizations, including NBC News, to bolster the channel's image.  

There was some good news for Comcast, however.

The FCC Monday denied a request from WealthTV, an independent producer of lifestyle programming, to re-open arguments that Comcast and three other distributors violated the Communications Act and the FCC by refusing to carry WealthTV's programming in favor of a similar programming channel.

The FCC based its decision on the conclusions of an administrative law judge who wrote, "WealthTV has not satisfied its burden of proving that any of the defendants engaged in discrimination in the selection, terms or conditions of carriage on the basis of WealthTV’s nonaffiliation" or that "any of the defendants unreasonably restrained WealthTV’s ability to compete fairly."