Wednesday, December 28, 2011

FCC Judge: Comcast at Fault in Treatment of Tennis Channel

Tennis Channel OpenImage via WikipediaIn his 59-page ruling this week, FCC Administrative Law Judge Richard L. Sippel aced Comcast, finding the cable Goliath violated the agency's anti-discrimination carriage rules in its treatment of the Santa Monica, Calif.-based Tennis Channel.

According to articles in The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times, Judge Sippel ordered Comcast to pay a $375,000 fine and cease its discriminatory treatment of the Tennis Channel. His decision is subject to a vote by the FCC before it becomes final and were the five-member Commission to uphold the ruling, would almost certainly be challenged by Comcast in  federal appellate court.

Judge Sippel said Comcast placed the Tennis Channel at a competitive disadvantage by not including it in a basic cable subscription as it did its own GolfChannel and Versus sports network, but rather, added the Tennis Channel to a more expensive collection of stations that have fewer subscribers. Nearly all 22 million Comcast customers receive the basic package, whereas only roughly 2.5 million dole out for the premium subscription that boasts the Tennis Channel, according to the newspapers' accounts.

"Although Comcast Cable claims that it denied Tennis Channel broader carriage based upon a cost-benefit analysis, the record shows that Comcast did not analyze the benefits that would accrue from giving Tennis Channel greater penetration," Judge Sippel wrote in his opinion. The FCC enacted program carriage anti-discrimination rules in 1993.

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