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Jackson Evokes Snarling Dogs, Church Bombings in Set-Top Attack

WASHINGTON — Rainbow/PUSH founder the Rev. Jesse Jackson, no fan of the FCC's set-top proposal, pulled no punches in a USA Todayonline op-ed published Monday afternoon (June 6), evoking images of snarling does and fire hoses in taking aim at a commission he likened to a recalcitrant southern governor.

He said the Federal Communications Commission’s proposal to regulate set-top boxes — which would require multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) to make set-top data and content available to third-party devices and apps, to be wedded with online video offerings — is a “deep threat” especially to smaller, independent and diverse networks and programmers, “who often lack the deep pocket resources to weather this type of transition.”

There are diverse programmers on both sides of the issue. More established networks such as TV One and BET are generally opposed to the new regulations as a threat to their business models, while some over-the-top programmers argue the new rules will provide a way for them to get noticed and draw eyeballs in a media marketplace dominated and controlled by larger players.

Jackson was clearly siding with the TV One camp’s argument. He even cited TV One president Alfred Liggins’s comment that the FCC proposal was “a new form of ‘redlining’ that could bury diversity programming.”

Jackson offered his own harsh assessment. “The FCC cannot be, on this issue, as woodenly unreflective as a Southern governor ignoring the community that he was supposed to serve,” he said.

Jackson echoed Congressional Black Caucus leaders in suggesting the FCC pause the process until studies of the proposal’s impact on diverse programming have been concluded, and to "listen to those who have fought this battle for equality over the decades and in other contexts."

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.