FCC refers cable carriage dispute to ALJ


GavelThe FCC has determined that GSM (formerly the Game Show Network) has made enough of a showing in a dispute with Cablevision over how its channel is offered to subscribers that it is moving the case forward under the auspices of an administrative law judge.

The battle revolves around Cablevision’s decision to move GSN from an expanded basic tier to a premium sports tier. GSN objected, saying that it provides family-oriented entertainment that appeals generally to women more than men, and says the move damages its ability to compete with other channels going after the same general audience.

Moreover, it cites discrimination because Cablevision had an interest in two of the competiting channels, WE tv and The Wedding Channel both before and after it moved GSN. (The two channels have since gone out of business.)

Cablevision said that GSN was a low-rated channel on its system, and one of the reasons it agreed to carry it in the first place was the negotiation of favorable terms regarding the MVPD’s flexibility in carrying the channel. It said it was this very flexibility that made the channel a prime candidate for the move to the sports tier.

The FCC said the focus of the issue, as far as it is concerned, is this: “The gravamen of GSN’s complaint is that Cablevision exercised this discretion in an impermissibly discriminatory manner by repositioning GSN to a premium sports tier while at the same time continuing to carry its allegedly similarly situated affiliated networks on a more widely distributed tier, and has thus failed to meet its obligation under Section 616(a)(3) of the Act and Section 76.1301(c) of the Commission’s Rules to avoid discrimination on the basis of affiliation.”

Although figures concerning dollars and cents and viewers and ratings were redacted, it noted that GSN has presented enough of a case for the matter to continue to be processed.

The matter is now designated for a hearing at a date and time to be determined by an administrative law judge.