Comcast Takes FCC To Court On Program Access

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Washington – Comcast became the second cable operator to challenge the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to keep forcing cable operators to share some of their TV networks with pay-TV distribution rivals.

Comcast filed its appeal on Dec. 3 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the same venue selected by Cablevision Systems Corp when it filed its appeal in October.

The FCC’s rules, adopted in September, require cable operators to sell their satellite-delivered networks to DirecTV, EchoStar, AT&T and Verizon until 2012. The rules cover Comcast’s Golf Channel and Cablevision’s Madison Square Garden Network.

But the rules do not force cable operators to share programming that is distributed by terrestrial means, which cable rivals call a “loophole” that Martin has proposed to close.

In its notice of appeal, Comcast recited familiar legal rationales for claiming the FCC’s five-year extension should be overturned.

But the No. 1 U.S. cable operator also told the court the FCC’s order “was adopted without adequate notice of the rules therein … (and) was adopted “without observance of procedure required by law.”

Martin has come under attack on Capitol Hill for failing to run the agency in a fair and transparent manner. Comcast’s court case is evidently going to determine whether a federal court agrees with those criticisms.