Tennis Channel seeks Supreme Court intervention over Comcast dispute

Pay-television broadcaster the Tennis Channel has requested that the US Supreme Court review a ruling from a lower court in May that reiterated pay-television provider Comcast’s right to carry the network on a premium sports tier.

In May, a three-judge panel of the Washington DC Circuit overturned rulings from the Federal Communications Commission, the US media regulator, that Comcast should put Tennis Channel on an equal footing with Comcast-owned pay-television channels Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network.

The regulator concluded that Comcast was in violation of programme carriage provisions of the Cable Act, but the appellate judges said that the FCC “failed to identify adequate evidence of unlawful discrimination.” Tennis Channel is arguing that Comcast’s stance can be interpreted as a calculated competitive blocking tactic.

Tennis Channel said: “We are seeking Supreme Court review of the DC Circuit's decision in our case because the lower court strayed from long-standing federal discrimination law to invent an arbitrary and unfair standard for deciding cable carriage complaints. The ruling ignores Congress's intent to ensure a diverse, competitive media marketplace and eviscerates the FCC's congressionally assigned responsibility to regulate programme network competition in the public interest.”

May’s ruling overturned a decision that would have placed Tennis Channel in an additional 18 million US homes. Tennis Channel added: “In doing so, the lower court reversed two-and-a-half years of repeated conclusions by the FCC's Media Bureau, Enforcement Bureau, the Administrative Law Judge – who noted Comcast's 'serious violations of law in this case' – and the Commission itself. Ultimately Congress expressly charged the FCC with the responsibility to establish procedures and decide carriage discrimination complaints. The court's decision not only failed to recognise where that responsibility lies, but also rewrote a vital portion of Congress' 1992 Cable Act and federal discrimination law.”