Has Comcast become the latest target in the Trump Administration’s ongoing war with the media?
Consider the possible motives of a Trump Labor Department transition team member—and regular contributor to the Fox News website—accusing Comcast of “stealing” technology from TiVo.
“Here is Comcast’s dirty little secret—it is stealing TiVo’s property,” wrote Richard Manning for The Hill. Manning accused Comcast of ripping off “the technology that allows you to record your television programming directly from your cell phone. Comcast and every other company that uses this technology leases it from TiVo, which owns the patents to this technology.”
The technology was actually developed by Rovi before it merged with TiVo last year. Rovi filed a grievance with the International Trade Commission against Comcast and its set-top vendor partners, Arris and Technicolor. And last month, an administrative law judge ruled that the defendants had indeed infringed on two patents owned by the post-merger TiVo Corporation.
“Comcast used to pay a licensing fee for this technology, but when its contract was up for renewal, it refused to continue paying and, instead, just freeloaded off of TiVo’s intellectual property (IP). Meanwhile, all the other cable companies continue to pay TiVo to license this technology," Manning wrote.
Amid the decidedly deregulatory climate created by the Trump White House—which has strongly favored the cable industry—why is a Trump transition operative like Manning speaking out against the No. 1 cable company?
“Comcast is not just a massive cable company; it is much bigger than that,” Manning contended. “Comcast owns NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, Telemundo and USA Network. It also owns Universal Pictures, Universal Parks and Resorts as well as the National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers and the arena they skate in."
Is Manning motivated by economic nationalism?
“To protect its property, TiVo has gone to the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), which addresses disputes like these due to the fact that Comcast outsources the manufacturing of these boxes and brings them into the United States,” Manning said. “As a result, TiVo has now gotten a favorable ruling for an exclusion order to keep those cable boxes out of the United States as long as they contain the infringing technology."
Comcast and some of its allies may try to criticize this remedy, but it’s the result of the conglomerate's own actions since it manufactures its products overseas. If Comcast made its cable boxes here with American workers, the ITC would have no jurisdiction, though TiVo may have other legal remedies to protect itself, of course.
Notably, however, Manning is praising the regulatory intervention of an international government organization—a strange fit for a man who also occupies the position of President of Americans for Limited Government, a group that describes itself as a conservative organization working to limit the size and scope of the government.
Trump himself has made no secret of his disdain for what he calls the “fake news” media—a contempt that extends beyond CNN to outlets like MSNBC.
In an October pre-election Speech, Trump accused Comcast/NBCUniversal of “trying to poison the mind of the American voter.”
On Thursday, the New York Times reported that the Trump White House is considering using AT&T’s proposed merger of Time Warner Inc. as leverage to bring CNN to heel.