WealthTV, the network for upper crust lifestyles, is asking the FCC to reopen its discrimination complaint against top MSOs Comcast, Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.
The channel argues that there is a question as to whether former FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker recused herself fully from the proceedings. Baker has since left to take up a controversial position as a lobbyist for Comcast.
The cablecos are not carrying WealthTV--a fact that the network claims is discriminatory under a specific FCC regulation that prevents operators "from engaging in conduct the effect of which is to unreasonably restrain the ability of an unaffiliated video programming vendor to compete fairly by discriminating in video programming distribution on the basis of affiliation or non-affiliation." In other words, they are shunning WealthTV because they have toes with other, more financially attractive programmers, WealthTV said. In May, an Administrative Law Judge decided that no discrimination was proved during an investigative trial, and the FCC subsequently concurred.
Now however, WealthTV argues, there are "legitimate questions as to the extent to which Commissioner Meredith Baker fully and completely recused herself from consideration of the WealthTV complaint proceedings."
It remains to be seen if the FCC feels the petition holds any water. Baker, who voted on the controversial yes vote to allow the Comcast-NBCUniversal merger to go through, sparked scrutiny when she left for Comcast a short while after the decision. She has maintained that Comcast approached her only after the merger proceedings and that there was no conflict of interest.
Charter Communications, AT&T U-verse and Verizon FiOS all carry WealthTV, which focuses on hot cars, fine culinary experiences, jetset travel and other high-end topics. But during the cable imbroglio the channel also explored the over the top (OTT) waters by cutting a deal with Roku to offer streamed programming on the Roku Box as an a la carte subscription for $2.99 per month. The idea of media companies going direct to consumers in such a way is anathema to pay-TV operators and many have seen the move as a potential industry bellwether.