The FCC has tossed a complaint made last year against Comcast by independent ministry programmer The Word Network (TWN), accusing the cable company of violating conditions tied to its 2011 purchase of NBCUniversal.
“After reviewing the complaint, we conclude that TWN has failed to establish a prima facie case of a violation of the exclusivity condition or the unfair practices condition. Accordingly, we dismiss TWN’s complaint with respect to these allegations,” the FCC said an opinion released last week.
In December 2016, Comcast dramatically reduced the amount of carriage it gave to the African-American-targeted TWN, cutting distribution of the Detroit-based network from 12 million to 5 million subscribers.
TWN said Comcast dropped its reach from 456 communities nationwide in violation of FCC conditions imposed by the FCC on Comcast when it bought NBCUniversal in 2011.
“This is exactly the type of behavior that Comcast is prohibited from,” said TWN’s attorney, Markham Erickson, to the Macomb Daily. The FCC mandates require Comcast not to favor its own NBCU channels—or more broadly, not cut channels that are clearly outperforming others it is not trimming.
“The Word Network is the leading network in its genre,” Erickson added. “There is no sound, legal justification for cutting The Word Network. It’s not a legitimate business decision because The Word Network is the superior network to The Impact Network.”
In its complaint, TWN said that it “features many of the most popular preachers in the United States, with congregations in the hundreds of thousands. The Impact Network, on the other hand, primarily features less popular preachers with smaller congregations.”
Comcast released a statement in December 2016 explaining the move:
“We continuously evaluate the content we deliver to our customers,” the cable company said. “As part of this ongoing process, we determined that The Impact Network provides a broader array of programming than The Word Network, which led us to our decision to increase Impact’s distribution. We are also continuing to carry The Word Network to millions of our customers in the Midwest and South based on its appeal in those regions.”