Pay-TV operators say NAB is on their side in battle against FCC's 'AllVid proposal'

Turning the current debate over proposed FCC set-top reform into rhetorical jujitsu, newly formed cable lobby the Future of TV Coalition claims to have an unlikely ally: the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).

"Big news in the AllVid debate as the National Association of Broadcasters … went on record with deep concerns about the FCC's AllVid proposal," the group said in a Friday morning press release. 

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has gone on record as saying his proposal to reform the pay-TV set-top leasing business -- the finer points of which haven't yet been made publicly available -- is not centered around AllVid technology. 

Still, the Future of TV Coalition, a group including all the major pay-TV operators formed to stop Wheeler's proposal, seems rhetorically undeterred, using the term 10 times in its press release.

The group also references a story in the subscription-only Communications Daily, in which it claims that the NAB warns that "tech companies like Google could become gatekeepers" if Wheeler's proposal gains traction.  
"This development is critical because the organization that is so deeply rooted in the local broadcast TV ecosystem is pulling the curtain back on the real motives and hidden costs of the AllVid rule," the coalition said. 

NAB rep Dennis Wharton responded with this statement for FierceCable: "NAB remains very concerned with the FCC proposal as it relates to copyright protections for programmers. However, we also believe the FCC inquiry highlights the fact that cable/pay TV set top box fees are a primary cause of rising cable rates, rather than modest retransmission consent fees received by local TV stations."

Meanwhile, in the same communication, the coalition also highlighted commentary made by Adonis Hoffman, former chief of staff for FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. Writing commentary for The Hill, Hoffman accused Wheeler's proposal, which seems very favorable to Google, as being "tantamount to the referee picking the winner of the Super Bowl before the kickoff."

"A closer look suggests that the chairman's policy is designed to substitute one set of players for another, or to be more precise, replace today's set-top box with something designed by Google," Hoffman said. 

He also noted Google's demo of a set-top prototype seemingly built around Wheeler's proposal. 

"In one of the finest examples of congressional choreography, Google demonstrated its newest thing for Capitol Hill staff a mere one day after Wheeler's announcement," Hoffman said. "Critics have decried the timing as more collusion than coincidence, but that might be going too far … The chairman's choice to favor the hardware approach has definite implications for the market, and indefinite benefits for consumers. And it is this consequence that is most troubling. It appears that the FCC has already greased the skids by allowing one company to help it write the specifications of a system that is supposed to be open to definition. As with other major policy matters, Google has demonstrated an outsized affect and influence on yet another Obama technology policy decision."

For more:
- read this Future of TV Coalition press release
- read this commentary on The Hill

Related articles:
Wheeler: Third-party set-tops will have to protect consumer privacy, too
ACA pleads to roll back set-top regulations for smaller providers
Wheeler: AT&T taking set-top debate to 'the extremes'

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