FCC Votes Comcast/Bloomberg Complaint Appeal

Decision in Restricted Proceeding Won't Become Public Until Order is Released

The FCC has made the call on the appeal of both Comcast and Bloomberg's challenge to a Media Bureau decision upholding Bloomberg's news neighbordooding complaint -- but it is not saying what that decision is yet.

The commission had scheduled the item for a vote at its Thursday open meeting, but instead it was voted on circulation. Since it was a restricted proceeding, FCC staffers can’t talk about it until the order is released, and even after that can only refer to the order, according to one staffer, rather than talk about it, until any petitions to reconsider the full commission decision, and perhaps even legal challenges, are resolved.

Comcast wanted the commissioners to overturn the finding that it had not complied with the NBCUniversal deal condition requiring it to put competing news nets adjacent to "neighborhoods" containing its co-owned news nets and others. Bloomberg wanted clarification that Comcast, to fix the problem, had to "neighborhood both standard-definition and high-definition channels.

Comcast disagrees that its news groupings in channel lineups meet the FCC definition of a neighborhood, and that in any event, those groups predated the deal condition and were "not based on any discriminatory motive to advantage CNBC or MSNBC or disadvantage Bloomberg."

The FCC was not expected to overturn the finding against Comcast, but it is not clear whether it has interpreted the condition as applying just to HD nets, or to the standard-definition channels in systems with only one news neighborhood and no available adjacent channels.

The agency back in May 2012 agreed with Bloomberg that Comcast needed to move the independent news channel into "news neighborhoods" -- groupings of news channels in adjacent channel positions -- to comply with the NBCU deal condition. That condition was meant to prevent Comcast from favoring its co-owned news nets, like MSNBC or CNBC, over independents.

In August the FCC, in an order clarifying its May 2 order to Comcast to neighborhood Bloomberg TV, stayed the effectiveness of that order as it applied to markets with only a single standard-definition news neighborhood and no vacant adjacent channels.

The FCC said the partial stay would reduce consumer disruption if the commission changes its decision per the review for which Bloomberg itself has asked, the review the agency has just completed.