I’d be stunned if Comcast and Bloomberg TV don’t settle their spat about Bloomberg’s channel position on Comcast cable systems before the FCC has to step in. But for now their saber-rattling makes for entertaining theater about an interesting question: What did the FCC mean when, in approving Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal, it ordered the cable operator not to discriminate against services such as Bloomberg that compete with NBCU channels including CNBC? For example, in Comcast’s system in Hartford, CT dial flippers have to go to channel 178 to find Bloomberg TV but only to channel 60 to find CNBC.
In a letter to Bloomberg today, Comcast says that the complaint is an attempt by “a multi-billion dollar financial services conglomerate that can and should stand on its own two feet in any negotiation to manipulate the FCC process for its own narrow commercial gain.” The FCC, Comcast says, only ordered the cable company not to discriminate in the future – it said nothing about changing channel line-ups that existed before the NBCU deal. If it moved Bloomberg now, Comcast says, then other cable channels would ask for changes. That “would cause significant disruption to consumers and other cable networks beyond anything the FCC contemplated or could reasonably have required.”
But Greg Babyak, Bloomberg’s Head of Government Affairs, says that the FCC “told Comcast that it must include independent news channels, such as Bloomberg TV, in any news neighborhood that it carries ‘now or in the future.’” He adds: “Rather than delays and obfuscations, Comcast should respect the public interest and implement the FCC’s Order immediately.”