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Bloomberg Takes Best Shot at Comcast

9/05/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Washington — It’s all over but the deciding. Bloomberg
TV last week filed the last volley in its programcarriage
complaint against Comcast for not moving the
business-news channel adjacent to existing groupings of
news networks on its systems in top U.S. markets.

Comcast said Bloomberg
has just misread
FCC’s “news neighborhooding”
condit ion
on the Comcast/NBCUniversal
deal and
that it is doing nothing
wrong. It will be up
to either the FCC or a
commission administrative
law judge to decide
the matter.

Bloomberg made its
last pitch to the FCC
that Comcast is violating
the “neighborhooding”
condit ion
in the NBCU deal order.
After Comcast
declined to move
Bloomberg’s TV channel
into news groupings/
neighborhoods following the implementation of that
order, Bloomberg cried foul at the FCC.

In its answer to Comcast, Bloomberg said its case hinges
on two points: (1) whether the condition applies to
news groupings being carried by Comcast on the date the
FCC approved the deal and are still being carried, and (2)
whether those groupings qualify as “neighborhoods” under
that condition.

Bloomberg’s answer is yes to both, saying it gets that
from the plain language of the order.
Comcast has countered that the FCC language applies
to future neighborhooding, and not to current groupings
of only a few channels, which aren’t what the FCC meant
by neighborhoods.
Bloomberg in its filing, a redacted copy of which was
supplied to Multichannel News, argues that Comcast has
made some 10,000 channel switches in the past 11 months,
undercutting its argument that the condition, if read as
Bloomberg reads it, would be a burden for the company
that the FCC did not intend to impose.

“They have argued that one of the reasons they could
not possibly obey the order is that it would be enormously
disruptive, indeed virtually impossible as a
technological matter. Yet we find that over the last 11
months, they have moved networks on their own systems
over 10,000 times,” Greg Babyak, head of government
affairs for Bloomberg, said. “It is hard to see how
they can quite easily move their own channels around
and yet it becomes impossible to move channels when
ordered by the FCC.”

Bloomberg also argued that the groupings in question
are neighborhoods “consistent with industry practice.”
While Comcast has argued the complaint should be sent
to the FCC’s administrative law judge, Bloomberg argues
that need not be the case. “We believe that is totally unnecessary,”
Babyak said. “[Comcast] stated up front that
they would hope that the FCC would reject our complaint,
which suggests the decision can be made by the commission
and its bureau.”

The company wants the FCC to require Comcast to
carry Bloomberg TV in its news “neighborhoods” in the
top 35 markets within 60 days, but has not ruled out pushing
for more markets, Babyak said.

“Obviously, top 35 covers most of the waterfront,” he
said, but added that was as far as Bloomberg had gotten
in confirming it could assert there were neighborhoods
that the network should be in. And if there are others? “We
haven’t requested that yet, but it certainly isn’t ruled out
by what we have requested,” he said.

September