FCC Holding Twitter Forum on Set-top Proposal

In advance of the FCC's Feb. 18 vote on a new proposal to "Unlock the content currently chained to pay TV devices" as a notice from the FCC press office put it Tuesday (Feb. 16), Counselor to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Gigi Sohn and National Hispanic Media Coalition President Alex Nogales will hold a Twitter town hall to talk about the opportunities the proposal creates for minority programmers.

"Introducing competition and innovation in interfaces available to consumers can also ensure that minority and independent programmers are on a level playing field with programming from the largest media companies," the FCC said in announcing the town hall, which will be at 3-4 p.m. today (Feb. 16). The chairman's office characterizes the proposal as a way to "tear down anti-competitive barriers and pave the way for software, devices and other innovative solutions to compete with the set-top boxes that a majority of consumers must lease today from pay TV providers."

Critics of the proposal argue it does not help minority programmers, a point made Tuesday by an AT&T Washington exec..

A number of groups representing various minorities are not convinced the proposal boosts independent or minority programming, and have asked the FCC to hit the pause button.

But Wheeler appears to have an ally in the first African American Woman to chair the FCC, Mignon Clyburn, who told a C-SPAN audience last week that the open platform the proposal would create could also be a way for an independent content producer to get in front of some eyeballs without having to get on a cable lineup. She said a key question was "whether that device should be strictly under the management of the satellite or cable providers or whether it should be more neutral and open to potential programmers."

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.