Skip to main content

Powell: NCTA Consciously Did Not Take Lead on PIPA/SOPA

Questioned following a Paley Center luncheon Tuesday on whether the National Cable & Telecommunications Association was sufficiently engaged in the debates over SOPA/PIPA anti-piracy legislation, NCTA President Michael Powell said he thought NCTA was "fairly well positioned" given its membership, but that old lobbying techniques will need to be updated in the face of new media.

He said he meant by that that the association had to represent both programmers and operators and there were nuances NCTA had to be careful about.

"We had operators that had meaningful concerns about DNS blocking, for example, and weren't sure that was the right thing to do. And so we were playing, but we were consciously not playing the lead role, and I think given what our membership wanted from us we were fairly well positioned," he said.

He pointed out that the Motion Picture Association of America had taken the lobbying lead on the issue, but suggested its tactics were better suited to fighting the last war. He said NCTA had deconstructed the fight to help prepare for the next one. "Welcome to the world of the Web," he said, adding: "Old fashioned lobbying will never be the same." He said he thought MPAA was "playing the same old Jack Valenti playbook." While he said that the Web was not going to  rise up on every issue in Washington, if the right factors came together, that would be the case. "you can't play the old playbook against that element of force," said Powell.

An example of what he called the weird new dynamic was Wikipedia's blacking out its page for 24 hours -- as part of a SOPA/PIPA protest. "Can you imagine if ABC had blocked out a channel for 24 hours. I mean, the world would have been in an uproar. Or if our networks had chosen to use their properties to make their messages known. But these industries are doing it."

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.