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WHDH-TV Channel 7 files suit against Comcast over unfair business practices

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Staff writer ▼ | March 10, 2016
WHDH-TV Channel 7 filed suit against Comcast in federal court in Boston. Channel 7 says its new proposed signal will not reach nearly 4 million residents and that Comcast broke antitrust laws.
Television   Comcast plans to terminate its 22-year relationship with WHDH
Channel 7’s claims are based upon Comcast’s January announcement that it intends to terminate its 22-year relationship with WHDH as NBC’s Boston affiliate at the end of 2016 and make its cable station New England Cable News the home of its new Boston station.

At the same time Comcast announced that it would broadcast its new station over the air from WNEUTV, a Telemundo station located in Merrimack, New Hampshire.

WNEU’s signal does not reach nearly 4 million greater Boston residents who currently receive WHDH’s signal, including residents in primarily minority communities such as Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan and Brockton.

Most of those residents would have to purchase cable service from Comcast if they want to keep receiving NBC programming.

When Comcast, the largest cable company in the world, acquired NBC in 2011, there was widespread concern about the impact this unprecedented accumulation of power in the television industry would have on viewers and other market participants.

Particularly in markets like Boston, where Comcast is the dominant cable provider, citizen groups, industry participants and government agencies expressed concern that Comcast would seek to leverage its cable holdings and in the process degrade its broadcasting presence and diminish the important public service role that broadcast television stations historically have played.

To address those concerns, Comcast promised its NBC affiliates (including WHDH) that it would negotiate affiliate extensions in good faith such that over the air access would be maintained, and cable interests would not influence those negotiations.

As part of the FCC’s approval of Comcast’s acquisition of NBC, the FCC adopted these same conditions in order to protect the public interest.

WHDH believes that Comcast has violated these conditions. It also believes that Comcast’s actions violate Massachusetts law prohibiting unfair and deceptive business practices.

Finally, WHDH believes that Comcast’s actions violate federal and state antitrust laws because they have enabled Comcast to increase its monopoly power in the Boston television market, and the resulting decrease in competition will harm consumers, advertisers and other broadcasters.

In its suit WHDH is seeking an injunction and an order requiring Comcast to comply with its obligations under its agreement with WHDH and the FCC order. WHDH will also seek damages. WHDH is owned by Sunbeam Television Corporation, which also owns WSVN-TV (Fox) in Miami.