Getting Programmers to 'Maybe'

My guess is that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is still working hard on getting the programmers in his set-top camp by trying to carve out as much of the programmer-offending language as possible while preserving the nut of the proposal.

The chairman is more Hotspur than Hamlet and clearly wants to get something out the door this week given that he has kept to his schedule despite the pushback from Dems and Republicans and unions and programmers and ISPs and  app developers and diversity groups he has gotten for his app-based proposal that would create a licensing body to approve contracts, but over which the FCC would have some ultimate authority if it concluded those contracts weren't reasonable or were anticompetitive. Programmers don't want the FCC anywhere near their contracts.

That does not mean the chairman couldn't pull the item--he certainly has plenty of cover. Or put out the new, apps-based proposal for comment, as many Dems on the Hill have suggested.

Wheeler may not be looking or expecting to get the programmers to "yes," just not a full-throated, see you in court, you're killing our business "no"

One way to tweak the language would be to preserve it, but with the caveat of "unless it would impede programmers....etc.

The key appears to be whether Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel can live with the result--she has been the most consistent voice for changes to both the initial "unlock the box" and subsequent "unlock the app" variation--although Wheeler will likely need Commissioner Mignon Clyburn's vote as well, and that would put her at odds with a bunch of diversity groups from the NAACA and Urban League to the MMTC who have called for more comment and input.

The diversity community is split on the proposal, generally along the fault lines of incumbent programmer vs. edgy independent looking for shelf space. Both have a case, so there is an argument for both slowing down and staying the course.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.