Comcast issued a pre-filing response to Bloomberg’s Neighborhooding complaint, which was subsequently filed with the FCC on June 14, 2011, where the operator spelled out its interpretation of the FCC Order regarding the above Neighborhood condition. Although it respects and values its existing relationship with Bloomberg, it emphatically disagrees that any concerted effort to neighborhood news channels has taken place, either before the NBCU merger, or after, for that matter.
In a letter date June 6, 2001, Author Block, Comcast Senior Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary crafted and submitted a response to Bloomberg attorneys, David Boies and Stephen Diaz Gavin. In that response to Bloomberg’s letter, See (Bloomberg PreFiling Notice Letter to Comcast, May 26, 2011), Comcast lays out its points with this document; see (06.06.2011 Bloomberg Letter). Both the Comcast and Bloomberg letters sent between each company attorney’s were submitted before the official FCC complaint was filed on June 14, 2011. See (
Comcast’s opinion centers on the premise that it has not directly or indirectly attempted to create channel (neighborhooding) in regard to its news channel lineups across a national footprint. It goes on to indicate that Bloomberg has created its own definition of a news channel neighborhood. Comcast also accuses Bloomberg TV of being inconsistent regarding the neighborhood definition which goes against its own advocacy before the FCC.
Block further asks Bloomberg to reconsider an FCC Filing and enter into private negotiations with Comcast regarding channel placement. In addition, Block indicates channel placement of BTV occurred long before the NBCU merger and does not have any relevance regarding the FCC Order stipulating any non-discriminatory actions by the operator, which would only relate to post merger actions by Comcast. Therefore Comcast inherently denies any discriminatory practices of a nature to deny Bloomberg TV of a preferred channel position.
The FCC Order provides that:
“ If Comcast now or in the future carries news channels and/or business news channels in a neighborhood, the it must include all independent news and/or business news channels in that neighborhood. It defines a neighborhood as a significant number or percentage of news and/or business news channels substantially adjacent to one another in a systems channel lineup.”
Comcast went on to reiterate that four channels, as represented by Bloomberg, constitute a small minority of channels it frequently carries and clearly does not constitute a news neighborhood. The letter went on to share Bloomberg’s example of competing channel lineups, which did not include Comcast, which it suggests are neighborhoods:
- 15 consecutive networks (Verizon)
- 14 out of 15 networks (AT&T)
- 10 networks within 11 channels (Dish Network)
- 10 news networks within 12 channels (DirectTV)
Clearly, Comcast in its letter to Bloomberg, offered overtures to enter into what it called “good-faith commercial discussions” to resolve their dispute. It offered to sit down and discuss ways in which both parties could benefit each other rather than spending substantial time and monies litigating a simple channel placement.
If the issue is not resolved privately, the FCC will have to determine what it meant in an (order of conditions) placed on Comcast for merger approval. That could mean widespread channel realignment of Comcast’s channel placement which could cause substantial disruption of customer viewing habits and possibly interfere with existing channel placement agreements.