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Comcast Discriminated Against Tennis Channel, Judge Rules

Comcast Corp. unlawfully discriminated against the Tennis Channel by placing it in different viewing packages than the cable company’s own sports programming, a Federal Communications Commission official ruled.

Chief Administrative Law Judge Richard Sippel assessed the maximum penalty of $375,000 against Comcast and said the largest U.S. cable operator must give Tennis Channel the same treatment it provides to its affiliated sports networks Versus and Golf Channel, according to the Dec. 16 ruling distributed by e-mail today.

Comcast, based in Philadelphia, disagrees with Sippel’s decision and will ask the full commission to review the ruling, Sena Fitzmaurice, a Washington-based spokeswoman for the company, said in an e-mailed statement.

Comcast exercised its contractual right to distribute Tennis Channel as it currently does, which minimizes costs to viewers, Fitzmaurice said. “It is wrong for Tennis Channel to use the government to impose higher costs and prices on private enterprise and consumers,” she said.

Ken Solomon, chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based Tennis Channel, in an e-mailed statement called the ruling “a watershed moment for independent programming networks.”

Solomon said “we just want to be treated the same way major operators treat the networks they own.”

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