Al Franken sides with Bloomberg in dispute with Comcast


Bloomberg wants its financial news channel located in the same set of cable channels, or neighborhood, that is home to other news and financial news channels on Comcast cable systems, such as Comcast’s own CNBC. It says that conditions on the Comcast/NBCU merger require it, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) agrees, and Franken is calling on the FCC to enforce this condition and others.

Bloomberg says that its ability to compete fairly with other news channels is damaged when it is located far away from its rivals on the channel lineup. It argued this point strenuously in objecting to the merger in the first place, and says a condition putting the requirement on Comcast to honor Bloomberg’s request was part of the approval agreement and is not being enforce.

Comcast says that Bloomberg understands neither the nature of channel lineup building nor the finer points of the conditions it agreed to honor in exchange for regulatory approval of the NBCU deal. It says that honoring Bloomberg’s request would cause confusion and disruption to its subscribers.

Franken, who also was a loud opponent of the merger in the first place, agrees with Bloomberg, and wrote a letter to the FCC to that effect, according to a Hillicon Valley report.

As part of its defense, Comcast notes that Bloomberg is already a thriving media business and does not require its special treatment. Franken turns that argument on its head, saying that Bloomberg is an unaffiliated company with deep enough pockets to stay in a battle with Comcast, and fears that smaller media companies with similar complaints will not have the wherewithal to sustain a protest in the same way.

Franken also worries that the conditions are meaningless if Comcast is going to challenge them rather than simply adhere to them.