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Bloomberg takes another FCC shot at Comcast

April 10, 2012 | 12:34 pm

Bloomberg LP has filed another complaint with the Federal Communications Commission against Comcast Corp., claiming that the cable giant is thumbing its nose at conditions the government put on it as part of approving its 2011 takeover of NBCUniversal.

At issue is where Bloomberg's business news channel is located on Comcast-owned cable systems in relation to Comcast's own channels CNBC and MSNBC. Bloomberg has claimed that a condition of the merger requires Comcast to move Bloomberg to the same "neighborhood" as its own CNBC and MSNBC channels.

"We need a passport to get to the news neighborhood from where we are now," cracked Greg Babyak, head of government Affairs for Bloomberg LP.

Comcast has countered that the FCC's conditions only apply if Comcast were to start placing similar channels next to each other on the dial, a practice known as "neighborhooding."

In its latest FCC filing, Bloomberg claimed Comcast has done just that. It cited two markets -- Crescent City, Fla., and Claxton, Ga. -- where Comcast created a neighborhood of news channels but left out Bloomberg Television. 

"Comcast is favoring its own programming content and discriminating against competitors," Bloomberg attorneys told the FCC.

A spokeswoman for Comcast denied that the company has created any new news neighborhoods since the NBCUniversal transaction closed last year.

Bloomberg filed its first FCC complaint against Comcast last June, and the length of time it has taken the regulatory to respond is also becoming a sore spot. On a Tuesday conference call hosted by Bloomberg, Gigi Sohn, chief executive of non-profit advocacy group Public Knowledge and a supporter of Bloomberg's cause, ripped the agency for dragging its feet.

Sohn said it is "ridiculous" that the agency has yet to act on Bloomberg's first complaint. "It's time to do the hard work and actually enforce those conditions," she said, adding that the FCC's inaction is going to discourage others from coming forward to report possible abuses by companies such as Comcast.

In a statement, Comcast called Bloomberg's latest complaint "desperate."

"If Comcast is forced to do what Bloomberg wants the FCC to mandate, beyond the requirements of the FCC Order, millions of customers will be subject to disruption and confusion required by massive channel realignments across the country, all to benefit an already thriving, $30-billion media company. It is hard to imagine a more anti-consumer result that would be less in the public interest," Comcast said.

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-- Joe Flint

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