FCC’s Wheeler on OVD NPRM: Stay Tuned

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is not ready to weigh in on the proposed Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) the Media Bureau is working on that would tentatively conclude that linear online video providers (OVDs) — those mimicking a cable system — would qualify as MVPDS.

The NRPM was first reported Sept. 29 by MultiChannel News/B&C.

At his press conference following the FCC's public meeting Friday, Wheeler was asked a lot of questions related to the proposal, nibbling around the edges with his answers.

Wheeler was asked what impact he thought the announced HBO and CBS online video services would have on competition, Wheeler said that they, and similar developments, would "obviously have a marketplace impact," and said that the FCC's look at what constitutes an MVPD would be a "key component" of that.

Asked if he had any "time frame" for action on Aereo's request to be classified as an MVPDand a time frame for the NPRM, Wheeler said "stay tuned. It is something that we are very involved in and looking at." He gave no signal of a timetable.

Another reporter asked Wheeler about journalism, the decline of newspapers, broadcasters' public interest obligation to carry news, and whether broadband or wireless carriers should have any obligation to provide news.

"You guys really want me to lay out the NPRM on MVPDs in detail right now," don't you, he joked, but added that he expected the item would probably deal with that issue.

Among the other takeaways from the press conference:

—The FCC is currently educating broadcasters on the economic opportunities of the incentive auction, armed with price estimates. Asked when the FCC would have a sense of how successful that pitch was, Wheeler said he didn't think they would know how broadcasters were responding until the auction. "We are creating a marketplace, and trying to provide information that is relevant to that marketplace so people can make decisions, but it is the marketplace that speaks for the marketplace."

—Wheeler was asked whether the FCC considered how a customer was treated would factor into its public interest review of a merger. Wheeler said the FCC's public convenience and necessity review authority has been broadly defined by Congress. "The public interest is a broad definition," he 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.