FCC Tells Comcast To Put Bloomberg With The Rest Of The News Stations

Now maybe you'll actually be able to find Bloomberg on your cable listings.

Now maybe you’ll actually be able to find Bloomberg on your cable listings.

There’s a practice known as “neighborhooding” in cable programming, in which cable/satellite providers tend to group similarly themed channels together. That’s why MTV and Vh1 were often right next to each other (because, believe it or not, they used to both air music videos!) and why the dedicated networks for the NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA are usually within a few slots of each other (and usually within free-throw distance of ESPN). But sometimes a channel gets left out in the cold, apart from its similarly programmed stations.

Such was the case with Bloomberg on Comcast. The news channel felt like it belonged in the same general numerical section as similar operations like CNBC (which just so happens to be owned by Comcast).

For example, here in Philadelphia, the following HD news channels take up stations 816-821: HLN, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, Fox News, Fox Business. Meanwhile, Bloomberg is hundreds of slots down the guide at 1216.

Bloomberg contends that it is required, as a condition of the Comcast/NBC merger, that news stations unaffiliated with Kabletown be placed in the same neighborhood as those owned by the cable colossus.

Comcast, in a move that stretches credibility even for them, argued that being forced to relocate Bloomberg was somehow a violation of its First Amendment rights.

“We reject Comcast’s claim that the News Neighborhooding Order is a violation of Comcast’s editorial discretion,” wrote the FCC in its decision [PDF], pointing out that “Comcast voluntarily assented to this condition knowing that it might affect some of its carriage choices.”

The FCC says that if Comcast had a problem with the requirement to neighborhood news channels, “it had the option to reject the conditional grant of its application… Comcast is now foreclosed from challenging the condition.”

The ruling gives Comcast 60 days to relocate Bloomberg into a proper news neighborhood in the channel lineups for each of its 35 largest markets.

“We very much appreciate the diligent work of so many at the Commission and in the public interest community in promoting the availability to the public of diverse sources of news,” said Bloomberg’s head of government affairs in a statement to Variety.

Comcast is “disappointed” and “evaluating our options.”