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House GOP Staffers Hammer FCC

The House Communications Subcommittee's Republican staffers have made it clear that, at least from their vantage, Tuesday's FCC oversight hearing will be a chance to hammer the commissioners in attendance.

That is the takeaway from the majority staff memo obtained by B&C.

The memo also takes aim at the FCC's "unlock the box" proposal to require cable operators to make set-top data and content available to third parties.

"The Chairman’s proposed regulatory incursion into this segment of the subscription video industry has garnered widespread opposition," the staffers say.

By contrast, it finds a lot to like in the National Cable & Telecommunications Association "ditch the box" alternative app-based proposal. It cites news stories from B&C and Multichannel News in pointing out both the criticisms of the FCC proposal and support for some alternative, or at least modified, approach.

The staffers point out that, in the NCTA proposal, "consumers will have the ability to conduct a unified search for content from both pay-TV and on-line video services through the devices menu." Unifying that search is one of the key drivers of the FCC's proposal. FCC staffers have asked a lot of questions about the "ditch the box" proposal to establish exactly how it will work in practice. The staffers also cite proponents of the NCTA plan that it will "protect content and enforce program licensing terms, thus promoting content diversity, and will provide consumers the same federal privacy protections they currently enjoy when using traditional-set-top boxes, including emergency alerts."

The memo also talks of a bitterly divided FCC along partisan lines that is currently "contemplating a novel, onerous, and ineffective vision of consumer privacy." Republicans are not happy that the FCC is proposing new broadband privacy rules rather than taking the approach of the Federal Trade Commission of enforcing voluntary privacy policies.

Also look for Republicans to probe the commissioners about the just-released quadrennial media ownership review. While the staffers say they are at least glad the FCC finally finished its years-overdue, congressionally mandated review of its regulations, it finds "curious" the conclusion that while the media landscape has changed, the media marketplace has not sufficiently changed to "warrant signification changes to in the Commission's rules."

The FCC has decided not to eliminate newspaper/TV station or radio/TV station crossownership rules and even tightened some rules and proposed restoring limits on Joint Sales Agreements thrown out by a federal court.

The memo also takes aim at the FCC's management of the Lifeline subsidy program—advanced communications for low-income residents.