Connecticut AG Wants FCC Investigation Into Cablevision/MSNBC Deal

Says exclusive carriage agreement limits diversity of programming, harms competition
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Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal wants the FCC to look into an exclusive agreement between Cablevision and MSNBC, saying it disserves the public interest and may be illegal.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Blumenthal "urged" the new chairman to investigate the deal, which he said prevents AT&T Connecticut's U-Verse competing multichannel video service from competing in Cablevision's franchise areas.

"This exclusive carriage agreement unfairly limits these customers diversity of programming and significantly harms the development of competition in Connecticut's cable markets," he said.

As for violating federal law, he cites the prohibition on a cable operator "coercing" a video programming vendor to provide exclusivity as the price of carriage, though the key to that would be establishing coercion as opposed to a mutually beneficial agreement.

"Connecticut is one of the most competitive telecommunications markets in the country and our carriage of MSNBC is the result of a perfectly appropriate and legal agreement between GE and Cablevision," said Cablevision in a statement. "In fact, as AT&T itself knows well, arrangements of this sort are very common in telecommunications and throughout other industries, and we believe they can create better value for consumers."

Blumenthal, who wants the FCC to prohibit all such agreements, not just Cablevision's, said that exclusive carriage deals lead to monopoly of programming and "harm the public interest" by limiting programming options and "supress[ing] capital investment.'

He said other attorney generals shared his concern, and said he would offer his "energetic assistance" in any investigation.

A Genachowski spokesperson was not available for comment at press time.

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