Business and Deals

WealthTV Takes Aim At Comcast/NBCU

Programmer says that FCC should deny deal or impose number of conditions 6/21/2010 04:20:45 PM Eastern

 WealthTV has filed a petition to deny the joint venture of Comcast and NBCU.

The move does not come as a big surprise. The programmer has waged a long-running battle with Comcast over carriage. It filed a program carriage complaint against the nation's largest cable operato, but an FCC administrative law judge (ALJ) concluded Wealth TV had not made its case based on the record before him.

Although the full commission has yet to act on that recommendation, its Enforcement Bureau has already recommended denying the complaint.

In petitioning the commission to deny the Comcast/NBCU venture, WealthTV wants to get via FCC conditions what it has so far failed to achieve via the complaint process. Among many other things, it wants the commission to require Comcast to carry "all established independent networks." Comcast has promised to add two new independent nets per year for the next three years, with at least three of those having a significant minority ownership interest.

WealthTV says the offer is "insignificant and meaningless," adding that Comcast has not specified on what tier those channels would be placed or whether they would ask for equity in exchange for favorable placement. "Independent means we don't own part of them and neither do any of the other top content providers," said a Comcast spokesperson.

WealthTV said that if the deal were to go through, as many expect it will, it wants prohibitions or restricting access to online content, and any complaints subject to baseball-style arbitration including a shot clock and continued carriage during the arbitration of complaints over changes in terms and conditions.

WealthTV also signed onto a letter from Bloomberg, Media Access Project and others saying that if the FCC does OK the deal, it should be with conditions on access to programming and market power issues. The lead attorney name on the petition taking aim at Comcast is Kevin Martin, the former FCC chairman whose policies were considered anti-cable by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

While Wealth TV may have problems with Comcast, a number of other independents who have gained carriage on the operator's systems do not. The company pointed to filings from Outdoor Channel, Reelz Channel, Catholic TV and others providing shout-outs for their relationships with the company.

Filings on both sides of the deal were continuing to flood in--there were 29,788 comments at press time (3:50 p.m.)--as the midnight Monday deadline for comments and petitions to deny approached.

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