The Federal Communications Commission has ruled in favor of Bloomberg Television in its bitter fight with Comcast Corp. over where its business channel was carried on the cable giant's systems.
In a ruling issued by the agency's Media Bureau on Wednesday, the FCC agreed with Bloomberg that Comcast is required to place the business network in the same neighborhood as other news channels, particularly those owned by Comcast, including CNBC and MSNBC.
"We agree with Bloomberg that the plain language of the condition suggests that the commission intended that the condition would apply to Comcast's existing channel lineups," the FCC said.
The commission directed Comcast to put Bloomberg in the same neighborhood as other news channels in any top-35 market where such neighborhoods exist in the next two weeks.
The FCC defines a neighborhood as "a grouping containing four news or business news channels within a cluster of five adjacent channel positions."
Bloomberg had argued in complaints filed with the FCC that Comcast was playing favorites with its own channels at the expense of Bloomberg — a concern it expressed when Comcast first announced its plans to acquire control of NBCUniversal, which owns MSNBC and CNBC.
"We are pleased the FCC had the foresight to include the news neighborhooding condition in the Comcast/NBCU merger order and the willingness to enforce it," Greg Babyak, head of government affairs for Bloomberg. "Many in the public interest community have worked tirelessly with us to promote the availability of independent sources of news to the public, and we look forward to working with Comcast to implement the order over the next 60 days."
In a statement, Comcast said it would appeal the Media Bureau ruling to the FCC chairman and the other commissioners.
"We respectfully disagree with the Media Bureau's interpretation of the 'neighborhooding' condition, which so clearly rewrites the history and any permissible underlying rationale for the condition," Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice said. "Since by definition, no 'discrimination' against Bloomberg in favor of CNBC could have taken place before the NBCUniversal transaction, any retrospective condition on this subject would have been arbitrary and capricious."
The neighborhooding condition only applies to news channels that compete with Comcast-owned networks, not other channels. The FCC said it did this "in accordance with the special importance of news programming to the public interest."