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FCC sides with Tennis Channel in discrimination case.

Jul 25th, 2012
Staff Writer

Tennis Channel logo || Photo credit: Wikimedia CommonsYesterday the Federal Communications Commission came to a decision siding with the Tennis Channel in their accusations of program discrimination by the Comcast Corporation.

Anti-discrimination rules were included in the 1993 Federal Communications Act “to prevent a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) from engaging in conduct [to] unreasonably restrain the ability of an unaffiliated [program] to compete fairly by discriminating in programming distribution.”

The Tennis Channel’s complaint was founded on the discontinuity between their programming distribution and that of two Comcast-affiliated networks: Golf Channel and Versus. Both of which Comcast offered to basic cable subscribers for no additional cost. However, Tennis Channel was placed on the “premium” Sports and Entertainment Package tier on the vast majority of Comcast systems. In order to access the upper tier, subscribers had to pay an additional $5 to $8 per month.

In 2009, Tennis Channel pointed to recent growth in a request that Comcast reposition their program to a tier with broader audience penetration. Comcast rejected Tennis Channel’s proposal, and the Tennis Channel filed legal suit, asserting that Comcast used its market power as the nation’s largest cable operator “to disadvantage Tennis Channel and protect the competing networks with which it was affiliated,” according to the FCC’s legal report.

Comcast was ruled to pay Tennis Channel $375,000 and distribute the station on equal terms with decidedly equivalent, affiliated programs.

The recent ruling marks the first time since the establishment of the Communications Act in 1993 that a station vendor has won a discrimination case over the station distributor. With US Open coverage starting August 27th and the US Open Series already underway, the court’s decision couldn’t come at a better time for tennis fans everywhere. Audiences around the nation will now be able to tune in and watch tennis’ premium performers, without paying a premium price.

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