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December 21, 2011
WASHINGTON, DC, December 21, 2011 — Following an eight-day bench trial, a Federal Communications Commission Administrative Law Judge ruled in favor of Tennis Channel in its discriminatory carriage lawsuit against Comcast Cable Communications.
This historic decision is the first time any independent programming network has won a discrimination case against a multi-channel program distributor such as a cable or satellite company under Section 616 of the Communications Act of 1934. The decision dramatically expands Tennis Channel’s access to subscribers.
Concluding that Comcast engaged in a “serious violation of law,” FCC Chief Administrative Law Judge Richard L. Sippel issued a 54-page ruling on December 20th that orders Comcast to discontinue its practice of discriminating against Tennis Channel in favor of its wholly owned, competing sports networks Golf Channel and Versus (set to be renamed NBC Sports Network on Jan. 2, 2012) and, in the public interest, to pay the maximum penalty of $375,000 to the government.
Noting that Comcast’s violations arose out of its “corporate policy of … favoring its affiliates vis-à-vis unaffiliated entities,” Chief Judge Sippel ordered Comcast to provide Tennis Channel with the “same treatment in both terms and conditions that it gives to its similarly situated Golf Channel and Versus.” This ruling requires Comcast to provide Tennis Channel with the same level of distribution and equivalent channel placement, with a limited exception for certain analog systems.
The decision directs Comcast to “proceed as soon as practicable with remediation.”
“This is a long-awaited day for Tennis Channel, and a watershed moment for independent programming networks and viewers who benefit from a true diversity of voices in the American media marketplace,” said Ken Solomon, chairman and CEO, Tennis Channel in announcing the decision.
The Covington team was led by Stephen Weiswasser, William Phillips, and Paul Schmidt. The team included associates Robert Sherman, Leah Pogoriler, and Neema Trivedi.