NCTA to Wheeler: Lifting the sunshine prohibitions on set-top proposal not enough

Michael Powell NCTA
NCTA CEO Michael Powell. Image: NCTA

The NCTA and its pay-TV cohorts said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s decision Thursday to lift so-called “sunshine restrictions” on his plan to regulate the pay-TV set-top business doesn’t go far enough. 

Lifting the ban lets various stakeholders in the pay-TV and programming world communicate with FCC Commission staffers on the newly revamped set-top proposal. The “Future of TV Coalition” — a group set up by the NCTA and major pay-TV operators to battle the FCC in its set-top regulatory efforts — said lifting the sunshine prohibition doesn’t go far enough. The public still can’t vet the proposal. 

“The law is clear. If this is a substantially new proposal – and all reports indicate that it is – then the FCC needs to let the public see it and offer comments before any final vote. Chairman Wheeler should heed the requests made by civil rights leaders, independent programmers, and dozens of Members of Congress to ‘Unlock the Plan,” Future of TV said in a statement. 

“Lifting the ‘sunshine’ prohibitions is meaningless if the public isn’t even allowed to know the details of the plan. This isn’t just some ‘inside the beltway’ fight – it’s a question of whether the real-world risks to consumers and creators are going to be addressed or just swept under the rug,” the group added. 

Wheeler has been under intense pressure — not just from the pay-TV industry, but from various other groups and lawmakers, too — to share details of his proposal, which would rely on multiscreen apps provided by pay-TV operators. 

Last week, Wheeler withdrew his latest proposal from the Commission’s September voting agenda at the last minute. 

The Future of TV Coalition said it’s unclear — with all the last-minute negotiation occurring — where the proposal currently stands on various controversial issues.

“Does the new proposal continue to involve the FCC in setting licensing terms, in violation of copyright law?” the group asked in its statement. “Does it still require TV providers to turn over sensitive viewer data to tech companies that aren’t covered by the strong privacy protections in the Communications Act? Does it finally abandon one-size-fits-all government technology mandates that are certain to slow down the unprecedented pace of innovation in the video marketplace?”

For more:
- read this FCC statement

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