House Dems express concerns to Wheeler over set-top proposals standard license clause

U.S. Capitol Building (Credit: Scrumshus/Wikimedia Commons)

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler received more complaint mail this week regarding his newly revised pay-TV set-top regulation plans, with 64 House Democrats writing to express concerns over the proposals “standard license” language. 

“The creation of a standard license with which all device manufacturers, pay-TV providers and programmers would have to comply strikes at the heart of the way content creators excercise their copyrights, as guaranteed by Section 106 of the Copyright Act,” said the letter, which was spearheaded by California Dem Tony Cárdenas.

“We are concerned that a standard license would encroach upon the highly competitive and complex licenses carefully negotiated between content creators and pay-TV providers,” the letter added. 

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The Democrats’ letter added to the bi-partisan coloring of the opposition to Wheeler’s latest attempt to open the leased pay-TV set-top business to third-party device makers. It also came as programmers, and the lobbying orgs that back them, continue their own assault on Wheeler’s proposal, which comes up for FCC Commission vote next week. 

After a phone meeting earlier this week with Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and her legal counsel, the National Association of Broadcasters said, “Commission involvement in writing the substantive terms of any license under this proposal would exceed the Commission’s authority and fatally undermine the Commission’s stated goal of protecting content and respecting copyright and contracts.”

"The Commission should not — through review of license terms, adjudications or complaint processes or any other means — create an end result in which programmers are forced to distribute content on terms that conflict with or otherwise undermine their affiliate agreements with MVPDs,” added another joint ex parte filing by CBS, Viacom, and 21st Century Fox.

Just as it was with Wheeler’s original “Unlock the Box” proposal from earlier this year, a small cadre of benefiting technology companies are offering muted support.

TiVo, for example, said in its filing that the new NPRM “represents a vital opportunity to unleash robust competition in the market for video navigation devices.”

"The Commission must retain oversight to ensure a competitive market for navigation devices, and any FCC actions designed to ensure that competitive devices are not discriminated against must trump private agreements between MVPDs and programmers,” TiVo added. 

For more:
- read this TiVo ex parte letter
- read this NAB ex parte letter
- read this letter from House Democrats
- read this Broadcasting & Cable story
- read this other Broadcasting & Cable story

Related articles:
Charter says FCC set-top rules would force it to charge modem fees
Comcast: FCC set-top rules violate ‘sanctity’ of programming agreements
FCC’s Rosenworcel says new set-top proposal ‘has problems,’ Wheeler said changes will be made

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