FCC Won't Reopen Tennis Complaint Against Comcast

Says Channel Had Full, Fair Hearing First Time Around

The Federal Communications Commission has reversed an initial decision and denied Tennis Channel's program-carriage complaint against Comcast.

An FCC administrative law judge issued a decision against Comcast in December 2011, and the FCC, under then chairman Julius Genachowski, upheld it. A D.C. Federal Court overturned that decision in May 2013, saying there was no evidence that affiliation played a role in the level of carriage Comcast had provided the channel. The independent Tennis Channel carries year-round action from around the globe, including the sports majors like The French Open (pictured), for which it is the principal U.S. rights-holder.

After the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the federal appeals court decision, Tennis Channel in March of 2014 petitioned the commission to issue a new order resolving what it said were new carriage-complaint tests created by the court.

In a five-page decision released Wednesday (Jan. 28), the FCC officially reversed the decision against Comcast per the court's findings and rejected the Tennis petition for further proceedings. .

"We reject Tennis Channel’s assertion that the Commission must order additional briefing on the question whether the existing record satisfies purported 'new tests' established by the court for unlawful program-carriage discrimination, and deny Tennis Channel’s complaint," the FCC said.

Even if it can reopen the proceeding, the FCC said it didn't want to: "To the extent the Commission has discretion to reopen the proceeding, we conclude that the interest in bringing the proceeding to a close outweighs any interest in allowing Tennis Channel a second opportunity to prosecute its program-carriage complaint. In this regard, we note that Tennis Channel has had a full and fair opportunity to litigate its complaint. Moreover, we disagree with Tennis Channel’s contention that the Commission is statutorily required to permit further briefing and submission of additional evidence."

“We respectfully disagree with the FCC’s decision today," said Tennis Channel in a statement. "Two-and-half years ago the FCC found that Comcast had blatantly violated Section 616 of the Communications Act in its carriage of our network vis-à-vis its own competing Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network.  Just as Comcast explored all options following its disagreement with that Order, we fully intend to do the same now.”