Today’s order from the regulatory agency’s Media Bureau means that by tomorrow Bloomberg TV will be located next to other news channels such as CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, and Fox News in about 158 of Comcast’s systems. The bureau pretty much sided with Bloomberg, ruling that the cable company had to move the business news channel’s standard definition feed into the so-called “news neighborhood” of the dial in 32 systems even if it meant that another service had to be displaced. Also, Comcast couldn’t just move Bloomberg on the HD tier. “When coupled with the Bureau’s earlier mandate that Comcast place Bloomberg TV in 126 Standard Definition news neighborhoods by July 1, this stands as a big win for the public and independent programmers,” says Greg Babyak, Bloomberg’s Head of Government Affairs. The order clarifies a May 2 Media Bureau decision that Comcast discriminated against Bloomberg TV by positioning it away from other news services. It’s a sensitive issue because Bloomberg competes with CNBC: Before Comcast bought NBCU, it promised the FCC that it wouldn’t favor its own channels vs rival services. Comcast said it wasn’t discriminating against Bloomberg; it was already separated from other news services on Comcast systems before the NBCU deal. The cable giant has said that it will appeal the ruling. Comcast wouldn’t comment on today’s Media Bureau ruling.
Meanwhile, commissioners still have to decide a bigger question: Where should Bloomberg go on about 190 Comcast systems that have more than one news neighborhood? Comcast says it should decide, but Bloomberg fears it will be isolated with low-rated channels such as Current TV and Al Jazeera. The FCC has taken a dim view so far of Comcast’s decisions regarding competing programmers. Last month the agency sided with the Tennis Channel which said the cable company fouled by putting it on an extra-pay sports tier while Comcast-owned services including the Golf Channel and Versus (now called NBC Sports Network) typically are on basic cable with ESPN and USA Network.