Bloomberg challenges Comcast’s channel lineup

By Jasmin Melvin

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Bloomberg LP, unhappy with the placement of its financial news channel in Comcast Corp’s cable television lineup, filed a complaint with the U.S. communications regulator on Monday, accusing the cable operator of violating a condition of its merger with NBC Universal.

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 in January.

Approval of the merger came with a list of conditions to protect the public interest and prevent anti-competitive practices following a rigorous, year-long review by the Federal Communications Commission and Justice Department.

In a complaint to the FCC, Bloomberg accused Comcast of violating a “neighborhooding” condition of the merger that it says requires Comcast to put like channels in the same place in the lineup.

“If Comcast is dragging its feet on a condition this clear, we can only imagine how they will live up to conditions that are potentially less clear,” said Greg Babyak, head of government affairs for Bloomberg LP.

The complaint suggests Comcast is 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.

Bloomberg has asked the FCC to require Comcast to comply with this condition within 60 days by putting Bloomberg TV in existing news neighborhoods on all Comcast systems in the 35 most populous U.S. markets.

Comcast has said that the FCC order regarding its transaction only puts the neighborhooding condition into effect if the company one day sets out to neighborhood its news or business news channels.

“Comcast does not, and since the transaction has not, ‘neighborhooded’ channels on our systems,” said Sena Fitzmaurice, vice president of government communications for Comcast. (Editing by Steve Orlofsky)