The FCC sided with Bloomberg on Thursday in its complaint against Comcast that the cable giant failed to live up to a condition of the merger with NBCUniversal to place news channels within the same neighborhood on the channel lineup.
Bloomberg had argued that its business channel should be placed in the same “neighborhood” of the channel lineup as other business channels such as CNBC, given a condition of Comcast’s purchase of NBCU that required it to place unaffiliated news networks in the same areas as the NBCU news channels. The FCC rejected Comcast’s argument that such an order violated its First Amendment rights.
The FCC’s action orders Comcast to place Bloomberg in news “neighborhoods” and not in unrelated areas of the cable lineup.
The commission did reject Bloomberg argument that if Comcast’s lineup has more than one news neighborhood, it be required to independent news and business channels in all of those neighborhoods. But the FCC decision, which upholds the conclusions of its media bureau, is a victory for Bloomberg as it tries t raise the profile of its business news channel.
Greg Babyak, head of government affairs for Bloomberg LP, said in a statement that “the Commission is correct today, in moving to keep the important promise it made to the public. We very much appreciate the diligent work of so many at the Commission and in the public interest community in promoting the availability to the public of diverse sources of news.”
Comcast’s Sena Fitzmaurice said they were “disappointed” with the FCC’s decision and that it was “evaluating our options.”
She said that the FCC’s interpretation of the news neighborhooding condition of the merger “very likely will lead to significant and unwarranted burdens on us, our customers and other programming networks.”
Mignon Clyburn, acting chairwoman of the FCC, said that the order “will allow Bloomberg Television to compete on an equal footing with its Comcast-affiliated competitors.”
Commissioner Ajit Pai said that he approved of almost all of the order, except for a determination that a news neighborhood meant four news or business channels within any adjacent five channel positions. He said that such an interpretation “expands the [merger] condition beyond its terms.”