Washington—Bright House Networks is saying that a special judge is incapable of ruling on a half-dozen program carriage discrimination cases within the 60 days mandated in a recent Federal Communications Commission ruling.
“This deadline is simply not realistic," BHN said in an FCC filing Monday.
Action within the FCC's deadline is unlikely, BHN added, mainly because it took the FCC's staff "nearly seven months" just to make its threshold findings.
The FCC's Media Bureau on Oct. 10 tentatively ruled that four cable operators, including BHN, violated program carriage rules by refusing to carry WealthTV. Comcast was involved in the other two cases, one about carriage of Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) and one about tier placement of the NFL Network.
The Media Bureau, saying it was unable to resolve "several factual disputes," referred them all to an administrative law judge, who was given until Dec. 9 to return with recommended decisions. The ALJ has not been named.
“Even focusing solely on the four cases brought by WealthTV, each complaint is based on a separate course of conduct and a separate set of inferences," BHN said. "BHN submits that fundamental considerations of due process require that the (ALJ) should adopt a proposed hearing schedule that is designed to serve interests of justice rather [than] to meet an artificial deadline."
BHN, the sixth-largest cable company with 2.3 million subscribers, has 5% interest in Mojo HD channel, a programming service of In Demand Networks that launched it in 2003 under a different name. Mojo HD is shutting down service around Dec. 1.
The FCC tentatively held that BHN's carriage of Mojo HD at the same time it was refusing carriage to WealthTV was discriminatory because, among other things, both channels were "substantially similar."
FCC chairman Kevin Martin had wanted the agency to find discrimination is each instance, with the ALJ recommending the license fee the cable operators should have to pay. But he was overruled by the other four commissioners.