FCC Still Working on MPVD, Political File Items

The FCC items proposing defining some linear over-the-top (OTT) video providers as MVPDs and extending online public file obligations to cable, satellite and radio are still in the works and at press time an FCC source said both would probably not get voted on this week.

Both items already have enough votes for approval--the three Democratic commissioners (including the chairman)-- so the Republicans were on a Dec. 10 must-vote deadline for the items, which had been circulated by the chairman for a vote weeks ago.

But the deadline can be extended, and the source said the political file item would likely get an extension until Dec. 17. The commissioners were still working through edits on the MPVD item offered up by the Republicans, which will not likely be released until next week.

The political file item is in  response to a petition filed by campaign finance reform groups seeking that extended online filing.

Currently, only TV stations are required to post their political files online to an FCC database, but the FCC In August asked whether that requirement should be extended, seeking input on a petition to that effect filed by the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause and the Sunlight Foundation.

The over-the-top  item would define an OTT that delivers a linear stream of programming as an MVPD. That means those OVDs would have access to content through the FCC's program access rules, but also have to negotiate retransmission consent with broadcasters. It would not apply to TV Everywhere, which is in essence an authentication regime for an online mirror of traditional service, in which access rules already appear. But it does ask questions about how it should treat TV Everywhere.

The idea behind the NPRM is to give over-the top providers offering an online service that mimics a linear cable offering the same FCC-enforced access to vertically integrated programming.

An FCC source confirmed the item had been voted by the Dems, with the Republicans still making edits that were being considered by the other offices at press time.

It is possible that the item could be 5-0 if the edits are accepted.

In addition to starting the process of defining OTT's in terms of competition to traditional video, the item responds to a complaint by OTT provider SkyAngel about access to content.

Exactly which OTTs should be defined as MVPDS and what other obligations or rights would apply beyond that access--PEG channels, exclusivity--are all teed up in many questions for the commenters, and ultimately the FCC, to answer.

A source who has seen the item describes it as the beginning of a process of answering some tough questions that will help determine the future of online video.

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.