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WealthTV, MSOs Make Final Case to FCC ALJ - Broadcasting & Cable

WealthTV, MSOs Make Final Case to FCC ALJ

Filed their respective post-hearing reply comments and findings of fact in WealthTV's program carriage complaint against the operators
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Cable-operator defendants and a programmer complainant have made their
last-ditch pitch to a Federal Communications Commission administrative
law judge.

WealthTV and top cable operators on Wednesday filed their
respective post-hearing reply comments and findings of fact in
WealthTV's program carriage complaint against the operators.

Those
are essentially summaries from both sides pointing out the defects in
their opponent's case and the superiority of their own arguments.

That
should conclude the cycle of pre-hearing, hearing and post-hearing
arguments, with the decision, in the hands of FCC chief ALJ Richard
Sippel, though that will not be the final call. Sippel tried their
complaint last month at the direction of the FCC, which sent the
WealthTV case and two other complaints to the judge for a de novo trial
after an initial bureau finding of program-carriage violations did not
pass muster with a majority of the commissioners.

Sippel must now
come up with a recommended decision and pass that along to the FCC
commissioners, who must ultimately make the decision on the complaint.
The filings Wednesday were trying to convince Sippel to either
recommend denying the complaint or upholding a violation of the FCC's
program carriage rules, depending on whose pitch it was.

Comcast,
Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Bright House Networks filed
jointly. They said that WealthTV had not produced any direct evidence
that any of the MSOs had intentionally discriminated against WealthTV
in favor of channels they owned. They said that was because they had
not engaged in "unlawful ‘differential treatment' " of their own
channel, the now-defunct Mojo network owned by In Demand, which is
co-owned by the MSOs.
WealthTV parent Herring Broadcasting countered
that the cable operators' refusal to carry its network had the effect
of unreasonably restraining its ability to compete by denying it access
to their collective 45 million subscribers, which WealthTV said
constitutes about 70% of cable video subs.

Also outstanding is a program-carriage complaint against Comcast by the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network; Sippel presided over that hearing last month.

Sippel also presided over a third complaint, NFL Network vs. Comcast, but the FCC dismissed the complaint after the two settled their dispute with a new carriage deal that put NFL Network on a more widely viewed digital tier.

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