television

Tech Knowledge Statement On FCC Removing Set-Top Box Vote From September Open Meeting Agenda

Posted by | Video | No Comments

Haymarket, VA, September 29, 2016 – Fred Campbell, director of Tech Knowledge, issued the following statement regarding the decision of the Federal Communications Commission to remove its planned vote on a set-top box order from today’s open meeting agenda:

“Over the last several weeks, it has become increasingly clear that FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s most recent iteration of his revised proposal to regulate set-top boxes looks nothing like the proposal the agency released for public comment earlier this year. Especially in light of the obvious lack of consensus among the agency’s commissioners, the public interest would be best served by providing the public with notice of how the revised plan is expected to work and a reasonable opportunity to comment on it.

A decision that could determine the future of television shouldn’t be cloaked in secrecy. It should be decided through a transparent and open process that reflects the complexity and importance of this proceeding.”

Tech Knowledge promotes market-oriented technology policies on behalf of the public interest. Additional information about Tech Knowledge can be found on our website, techknowledge.center.

Tech Knowledge Reply Comments in FCC ‘Set-Top Box’ Proceeding

Posted by | Broadband Internet, Video | No Comments

On Monday, Tech Knowledge filed the following reply comments at the Federal Communications Commission in its proceeding to impose wholesale unbundling regulations on cable and satellite video programming in the guise of regulating set-top boxes. The complete comments as filed can be downloaded from the FCC’s website in PDF format HERE. (Note, the HTLM version of the reply comments printed below does not contain the footnotes or appendices provided in the PDF version that was filed at the FCC.)

Executive Summary

The arguments made by proponents of the Wholesale Proposal affirm that its true purpose is to limit MVPDs’ ability to exercise editorial discretion by forcibly overwriting MVPDs’ video interfaces. The Communications Act, previous FCC findings, judicial precedent, and scientific studies in behavioral economics all demonstrate that the interface between consumers and MVPDs’ video programing is itself a form of speech or is otherwise entitled to First Amendment protection because it is intrinsic to MVPDs’ exercise of editorial discretion.

Consider Amazon’s example in its comments in this proceeding — that the Wholesale Proposal would enable Amazon to suggest that an MVPD subscriber watch Amazon’s own programming rather than an MVPDs’ program. In the context of the printed news, that would be equivalent to a rule permitting the Washington Post (a newspaper owned by Amazon CEO Jeffrey P. Bezos) to slap a new front page on the Washington Examiner that contains the Post’s chosen headlines and a message directing Examiner subscribers to read the Post instead. Though the Examiner’s subscribers would still have access to the Examiner’s content as a technical matter (by turning the page), the rule would have the effect of compelling the Examiner to publish (or subsidize the publishing of) that which it does not want to publish (the Post’s headlines and advertising messages) while effectively overriding the Examiner’s editorial decisions about what should be considered the “front page news” of the day. Similarly, the Wholesale Proposal would force MVPDs to publish that which they do not want to publish (i.e., mandatory “information flows”) in order to enable third-parties to direct MVPD subscribers to watch third-party programming (and its associated advertising) that displaces MVPDs’ own decisions regarding what programming should be highlighted on the video interface’s “front page.” Whether applied to print or video, such a rule would cut straight through the heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of press freedom.

Shifting control over the video choice architecture (and corresponding profits) from MVPDs (and the video programming vendors with whom they negotiate content licenses) to Internet software companies (and their affiliated video programming vendors) would threaten the free flow of information and ideas by concentrating control over the video interface in the hands of a few, giant Internet software companies. Read More

Tech Knowledge Comments on FCC Proposal to Force MVPDs to Offer Unbundled Wholesale Services

Posted by | Broadband Internet, Freedom of Speech, Satellite, Video | No Comments

Today Tech Knowledge filed the following comments at the Federal Communications Commission that address an FCC proposal to force MVPDs to offer unbundled wholesale services in the guise of creating competition in the artificial market for set-top boxes (a proposal dubbed Unlock the Box by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler). The complete comments as filed can be downloaded in PDF format HERE. (Note, the HTLM version of the comments printed below does not contain the footnotes provided in the PDF version available at the link above and filed at the FCC.)

Executive Summary

The Wholesale Proposal Is an Impermissible Common Carriage Requirement

The FCC’s proposed regulations (the “Wholesale Proposal”) would do more than merely create competition in a market for the “equipment” used to access MVPD services that is artificially separated from the underlying MVPD services themselves; the proposed rules would effectively require MVPDs to provide unbundled, nondiscriminatory access to video programming “information flows” that are an essential part of otherwise fully integrated MVPD services. The avowed purpose of the Wholesale Proposal is to enable third parties to combine MVPD’s unbundled programming with “ancillary features” to provide entirely new, “differentiated” services in competition with MVPDs’ underlying services — the same justification that has traditionally been used to impose resale and other wholesale obligations on common carriers under Title II. The FCC cannot accomplish this result in the guise of promoting competition in an artificially created market for “equipment,” because mandatory wholesale requirements are fundamentally common carriage, and the Communications Act prohibits the FCC from treating MVPDs as common carriers. Read More

Tech Knowledge Statement On FCC Proposal To Modify Regulations Governing Set-Top Boxes

Posted by | Regulatory State, Video | No Comments

For Immediate Release

 

Tech Knowledge Statement On FCC Proposal To Modify Regulations Governing Set-Top Boxes

Haymarket, VA, February 18, 2016 – Fred Campbell, Director of Tech Knowledge, released the following statement with respect to the Federal Communications Commission’s adoption at its February open meeting of a proposal to modify regulations governing cable and satellite set-top boxes:

The slogan for today’s FCC meeting, “Unlock The Box,” isn’t about unlocking cable and satellite set-top boxes. It’s about shifting some of the value of their underlying programming rights to Google and other powerful Internet companies.

In the STELA Reauthorization (STELAR) Act of 2014, Congress charged the FCC with establishing a working group of technical experts to recommend standards for promoting the “competitive availability of navigation devices,” not search engines and programming guides. But promoting Google’s ability to add cable and satellite programming packages to its online monopoly search engine and to create Google-branded programming guides is what the FCC’s proposed plan would ultimately do. The plan would allow Google to rebrand other video service providers’s programming packages as Google’s own and permit Google to track the behavior of video consumers in order to enhance Google’s advertising and other affiliated businesses.

The expert group established by the FCC at Congress’s behest recommended two different approaches — the approach proposed by the FCC today as well as an apps-based approach that would promote the competitive availability of navigation devices without compromising the value of existing programming packages or the contractual rights of programmers. But the fact sheet released by Chairman Wheeler in January didn’t mention the expert committee’s apps-based recommendation. The fact sheet informed the public about the Chairman’s preferred plan only, as if the only choice were between his plan or nothing at all.

Operating a government agency in this sort of shade does not serve the public interest. The public deserved to know about both options before editorial staffs around the nation began proclaiming their support for the only option the Chairman chose to present.

 Tech Knowledge promotes market-oriented technology policies on behalf of the public interest. Additional information about Tech Knowledge can be found on its website, tech knowledge.center.

FCC Net Neutrality Ideology Out of Step with Internet Reality

Posted by | Broadband Internet, Net Neutrality Series, Regulatory State, Video | 3 Comments

“Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives. We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology—where each worker may bloom, secure from the pests purveying contradictory truths. Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause. Our enemies shall talk themselves to death, and we will bury them with their own confusion. We shall prevail!” Apple advertisement, 1984.

There are now two Internets. The Internet envisioned by the ideology embodied in the FCC’s new net neutrality rules, and the Internet as it exists in reality. The “net neutral” Internet is “a garden of pure ideology” where content companies “are one people . . . with one cause” and network congestion is merely a figment of the imagination. The real Internet is different — congestion is commonplace and the interests of content owners are divergent.

The pests of reality’s contradictory truths threw the first hammer at the ideological Internet on Monday, when the Wall Street Journal reported that HBO, Showtime, and Sony Corp. want to stream their Web-TV content separately from the “public Internet.” They fear Internet congestion will only get worse as viewers stream more video content and they don’t want to offer consumers a frustrating experience. So they are talking with major broadband providers about having their streaming services treated as managed services that would give consumers the best experience possible. Read More

What Does the Shift Toward Online Video Streaming Mean for Regulatory Policy?

Posted by | Broadband Internet, Video | No Comments

A flurry of announcements that HBO, CBS, and Lionsgate and Tribeca Enterprises will stream video content online has prompted plenty of speculation about its potential success or impending failure. Some claim it proves that all consumers want to purchase video programming on an ‘à la carte’ basis. Others claim that HBO’s online service is “doomed before it even starts.”

I’m inclined to side with Representative Bobby Rush, who is optimistic that the trend will positively impact the video marketplace while remaining mindful that it’s too soon to predict the ultimate fate of à la carte video streaming.

No matter how these services fare among consumers, however, the fact that a cable channel (HBO), a broadcast network (CBS), and a major movie studio (Lionsgate) have all chosen to experiment with a new distribution model offers valuable insight to policymakers. Read More

Time Warner Cable Doesn’t Deserve the FCC’s Help

Posted by | Video | No Comments

From the moment the deal was announced, many questioned the unprecedented price Time Warner Cable (TWC) agreed to pay for the exclusive right to distribute Los Angeles Dodgers games through its SportsNet LA channel. Though the deal was deemed a coup for the team’s new owners, TWC acknowledged the risk that it could lose money on the Dodgers. Would this be the deal “where the big TV money in baseball bubble pops”?

The free market answer is, “Yes”. When TWC demanded that SportsNet LA be carried on the basic service tier at rates of $4-$5 per subscriber, DirecTV balked. The satellite operator was willing to place a bet in the marketplace that its subscribers would rather skip the Dodgers than be forced to bail TWC out of its bad deal, and so far, its bet has paid off. Fans feel like its the Dodgers who let them down. Read More

CBIT White Paper: The Future of Broadcast Television

Posted by | Satellite, Video, Wireless | One Comment

Click HERE to download the complete paper in PDF.

Executive Summary

The migration of consumers from over-the-air television to other video platforms has prompted a debate about the role that television (TV) stations should play in the future communications marketplace. This debate has focused on only two options, each of which is supported by a competing segment of the video marketplace:

  • Broadcasters support maintaining the regulatory status quo; and
  • Multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) support maintaining only the unique “public interest” obligations imposed on TV stations by the regulatory status quo while repealing the regulatory provisions that enable TV stations to meet those obligations.

Neither option would harness the power of the free market to determine the future of broadcast television. Though the first option would continue to rely on government intervention to preserve free over-the-air television, the second option would bear even less resemblance to a functioning free market. Repealing only the regulations that enable TV stations to meet their unique public interest obligations would effectively result in the forced abandonment or sale of TV stations at fire-sale prices, thus destroying the legitimate, investment-backed expectations of TV stations through government action. It would be the antithesis of a free market approach.

This paper proposes a free market alternative that could unleash the broadcast industry’s full competitive potential and usher in a new wave of innovation and investment in communications: Enabling TV stations to innovate and compete in the MVPD and wireless broadband market segments through comprehensive, market-based regulatory reform. This alternative would allow TV stations to transition their businesses to a free market approach by eliminating the following anticompetitive regulations:

  • The free television mandate,
  • The broadcast MVPD prohibition,
  • The Federal broadcast tax,
  • Broadcast ownership limits,
  • Broadcast programming restrictions, and
  • Broadcast spectrum limitations.

This pro-competitive approach would enable the elimination of regulations that are necessitated by the government-mandated broadcast business model while respecting the investment-backed expectations of TV station owners. The result would be a truly comprehensive approach to reforming broadcast regulation that would promote competition, investment, and innovation by allowing market forces to determine the future of broadcast television stations. Read More

Outdated Policy Decisions Don’t Dictate Future Rights in Perpetuity

Posted by | Satellite, Video, Wireless | No Comments

Congressional debates about STELA reauthorization have resurrected the notion that TV stationsmust provide a free service” because they “are using public spectrum.” This notion, which is rooted in 1930s government policy, has long been used to justify the imposition of unique “public interest” regulations on TV stations. But outdated policy decisions don’t dictate future rights in perpetuity, and policymakers abandoned the “public spectrum” rationale long ago. Read More