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News giant Bloomberg has filed a formal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, accusing Comcast of violating conditions it agreed to as part of its merger with NBC Universal, which created a $30 billion entertainment colossus.
Bloomberg argues that Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator, has exiled its financial news television network to cable-dial Siberia, far away from the “existing news neighborhoods” where it groups major news channels like MSNBC, CNBC, and Fox News.
Bloomberg’s complaint centers on a specific condition the FCC applied to the merger, which required that “if Comcast now or in the future carries news and/or business news channels in a neighborhood, defined as placing a significant number or percentage of news and/or business news channels substantially adjacent to one another in a system’s lineup, Comcast must carry all independent news and business news channels in that neighborhood.”
Bloomberg’s dispute with Comcast goes to the heart of objections raised by critics of the NBC Universal deal, who had argued that Comcast could use its market power to favor its own channels to the disadvantage of rival programming, in this case Bloomberg TV.
For its part, Comcast says it “does not, and since the transaction has not, ‘neighborhooded’ channels on our systems.” The cable giant argues that the FCC’s “neighborhooding” requirement would only apply if Comcast-NBCU actually did neighborhood news or business news channels in the future, but since it does not at present, the FCC’s order approving the merger “does not support Bloomberg TV’s request.”
Thus, the outcome of this squabble will likely center on whether the FCC determines that Comcast does, in fact, neighborhood its channels or not.