May 2 (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday told Comcast Corp that it must place Bloomberg LP’s financial news channel near other independent news channels in its channel lineup.
Bloomberg last June filed a complaint with the FCC, accusing Comcast of violating a “neighborhooding” condition of its merger with NBC Universal that requires the cable operator to put similar channels in the same place in the lineup.
Comcast had argued that it does not “neighborhood” any channels in its cable television lineup.
But the FCC’s media bureau concluded on Wednesday that Comcast does in fact neighborhood news channels, which it defined as having four news channels within any five adjacent channel positions.
The agency found that Bloomberg TV was left out of these news neighborhoods on some cable systems, according to an FCC order.
Comcast will have to place Bloomberg TV near other news channels on some cable systems, particularly those that include multiple news neighborhoods.
Comcast said it will immediately appeal the decision to the full Commission, and it was confident that this ruling would be overturned.
Bloomberg’s complaint suggested that Comcast was discriminating against Bloomberg TV to increase viewership and advertising revenue for its affiliated programming, including CNBC, Bloomberg TV’s dominant competitor, and other news networks now controlled by the cable company.
“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,” Sena Fitzmaurice, Comcast’s vice president of government communications, said in a statement.
“And there is simply no support in any record for a four channel definition of a ‘neighborhood,’” she added.
Bloomberg, a financial news and data provider whose competitors include Thomson Reuters Corp, welcomed the FCC’s decision.
“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, said in a statement.
Comcast, the No. 1 provider of video and residential Internet service in the United States, acquired a 51 percent stake in NBC Universal from General Electric Co last year.
Approval of the merger after a year-long review by the FCC and Justice Department came with a list of conditions to protect the public interest and prevent anti-competitive practices.