Dish, EchoStar Tackle Set-Top Proposal

Dish and EchoStar have teamed up this week to tell the FCC that the problems with its set-top proposal were insurmountable, particularly for satellite operators. 9initially, the story incorrectly reported DirecTV was part of the meeting).

That came in meetings between execs and a host of FCC officials, according to an ex parte filing.

The FCC is proposing to make MVPDs, including satellite operators, make set-top content and data available to third party navigation devices in an effort to create a retail market for set-tops and a way to promote over-the-top video via integrated search.

The satellite operators point out that satellite is based on a one-way transmission path while the FCC proposal is focused on a two-way system, "ensuring that the Commission cannot adopt a workable solution for satellite MVPDs."

"In order to perform many functions provided by two-way system networks, satellite operators must support those functions in the set-top box in each subscriber’s home," they told the FCC officials. "This means that some form of satellite gateway device must be available in each subscriber’s home in any regime mandating access for competitive set-top boxes."

They argue the FCC has not taken into account the impact of that requirement on "Video on Demand (VOD), local advertising, and channel tuning, as well as the need for an interface that would allow both the satellite MVPD devices and the competitive devices to operate at once." Instead, they said, the FCC ignored those issues.  

They argue the FCC failed to give them proper notice or a chance to provide meaningful input on key provisions of the proposal, which if true violates the Administrative Procedures Act.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has said there has been plenty of opportunity to comment and that the issues raised should and could have been anticipated.

"The proposed competitive set-top box regime is unworkable for satellite operators, and flawed with respect to all MVPDs," they said.

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.