Charter, Comcast say FCC's set-top proposal violates ‘sanctity’ of programming agreements

Comcast

Lobbyists from Comcast, Cox Communications, AT&T and the NCTA sat down with staffers from Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai last week, rebuking a key component of the agency’s revised set-top regulation proposal. 

The cable industry continues to push back on a key provision of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s revised plan, which calls for an FCC mandated body to license multiscreen apps provided by pay-TV operators. 

“Based on the publicly available but incomplete information that we have been able to piece together just weeks before a Commission vote, we explained our understanding that the Chairman’s proposal contemplates that the Commission would require certain terms and forbid other terms in a ‘standard’ apps license governing the availability of MVPD apps on any and all widely deployed platforms,” the cable lobbyist said in an ex parte filing.  

“The Commission’s role would further extend to determine the validity under a new ‘non-discrimination’ provision of the terms of any underlying agreement between a programmer and an MVPD that may affect consumers’ access to and use of programming or MVPD services on such platforms. Such an approach neither respects the sanctity of programming agreements nor upholds the copyright licensing regime by which programming is distributed. The Chairman’s proposal appears to anticipate that the new standard license will supplant the current, successful arrangement in which MVPDs develop and distribute apps, and would not account for the unique development environment, interface, streaming platform and encryption technology of each app platform.”

The meeting came as the White House continues to back the FCC in its latest quest to regulate the leased pay-TV set-top business and open up the ecosystem to third-party device makers. 

On Friday, Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, endorsed Wheeler’s revised set-top plan in a speech delivered in Chicago, 

Forman said Wheeler is finding ways to address the pay-TV and media industry’s meaningful concerns “while being responsive to Congress’ explicitly directive to endure healthy set-top marketplace.”

All of the lobbying comes as Wheeler’s delicate Democratic majority on the FCC Commission faces peril. 

GOP Senators agreed to confirm the well-liked Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel back in December 2014 in order to obtain the reconfirmation of Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly. So far, however, the Republican lawmakers have yet to confirm Rosenworcel for a second term. And if they don’t vote to confirm her for a second term by the end of the year, she’s out for good. 

For more:
- read this ex parte letter
- read this Morning Consult story

Related articles:
Wheeler puts pay-TV back on defense with revised set-top proposal
FCC’s Rosenworcel says new set-top proposal ‘has problems,’ Wheeler said changes will be made
Wheeler formally pitches revised app-based set-top proposal, includes integrated search

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