MPAA joins Comcast and AT&T in lauding FCC’s set-top vote delay

FCC headquarters
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The Motion Picture Association of America, one of the programming industry’s most powerful lobbying groups, joined pay-TV operators Comcast and AT&T in lauding the FCC’s decision to delay the Thursday vote on its revised set-top regulation order. 

“The MPAA is pleased that the FCC is taking more time, and we hope they use it to ensure any set-top box proposal remains consistent with copyright policy and avoids harming creators,” the group said in a statement. “As the MPAA and its member companies have repeatedly stated over the last year, we support the FCC’s goal of promoting set-top box competition, but we continue to urge the Commission to forge a path that does not undermine the creative economy.

"Copyright employs more than 5.5 million U.S. workers and generates over $1 trillion in economic value – incentivizing innovation and investment in creative works enjoyed by millions around the world," it added.

Nearly a month ago, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler revised his proposal to open the leased pay-TV set-top box business to third-party device makers, changing the plan to be based on multiscreen apps provided by pay-TV operators. Programming companies, and groups like the MPAA who represent them, have pushed back hard against the portion of the plan that calls for the FCC to create an independent standards body, which would have the ability to regulate the apps. 

“The Chairman’s new approach does not solve the copyright, privacy, innovation and other significant concerns that were implicated in his discredited original proposal – and suffers from the same legal infirmities,” said Comcast VP of Government Communications Sena Fitzmaurice in a statement. “We share the goal of providing consumers more options to access their video services without the need for a set-top box as we are proving through our Xfinity TV Partner Program. But heavy-handed government regulation, based on questionable legal authority in a fast-moving marketplace, will stop the apps revolution dead in its tracks, and delay consumer choice.”

Added Bob Quinn, AT&T senior VP of federal regulatory: “We have always said that this complicated technology mandate is unnecessary given the rapidly expanding applications-based marketplace. No FCC proceeding in recent years has drawn more unified opposition and bipartisan expressions of concern. Important questions remain about the scope of the FCC’s authority as well as the complex framework proposed in this item, and about the significant impact it could have on existing statutory privacy, copyright and licensing protections. 

"These concerns all suggest that this proposal needs to be brought from the back rooms of the FCC into the sunlight to ensure that consumers continue to receive the innovative video products the marketplace has already been delivering," Quinn concluded.

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