FCC Extends Comment Period For 'OVD' Definition

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission will give the industry and public a little more time to comment on the proposal to classify linear over-the-top video providers as multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), at least for the purposes of nondiscriminatory access to programming — just not as much of it as they had requested.

Several parties, including the National Association of Broadcasters and Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (with the support of the American Cable Association), had pointed to the complexity of the issues involved and asked for an extra 30 days to comment.

"The commission’s general policy is not to grant extensions of time routinely," Media Bureau chief Bill Lake said in granting an extension, "but we find that given the complex issues involved here, the public interest warrants an extension of the comment and reply comment deadlines. Although the parties seek a 30-day extension, we believe that a two-week extension will give the public enough time to respond to the NPRM."

Comments are now due by March 3; reply comments must be filed by March 18. (The NAB and the other parties had sought deadlines of March 19 and April 3).

The FCC voted last December to propose giving linear OVDs nondiscriminatory access to cable-affiliated programming and local-TV station broadcasts, regardless of whether or not the distribution is facilities-based. That decision raises lots of questions about how to apply that definition and the ramifications of doing so.

The idea is to help promote online video as a competitor to traditional cable and satellite providers. The FCC has said that a technology-neutral definition of MVPD should yield more programming choices.

"Video is no longer tied to a certain transmission technology, so our interpretation of MVPD should not be tied to transmission facilities," FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said when the item was up for a vote.

In the past, the FCC has tentatively concluded that an MVPD must have a distribution facility to meet that classification.

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.