A recommended decision issued this week by a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that four major cable operators1 did not unlawfully discriminate against independent programmer Wealth TV in favor of another programming channel, MOJO, that was affiliated with the cable operators.2 The decision by Chief ALJ Richard L. Sippel, the first to interpret the scope of the FCC's program carriage rules, establishes that program carriage complainants (1) bear the burden of proof and (2) will be required to present real evidence of discrimination, including evidence that the discrimination created an inability for the independent programmer to compete fairly. If this ALJ recommended decision is ratified by the FCC Commissioners, the cable industry will have a strong precedent to assist it in similar program carriage disputes now pending or filed in the future.
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