Programmers Press Set-Top Concerns With Rosenworcel

Programmers were talking to FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel Thursday, pressing her with their concerns about FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's version of an apps-based "unlock the box" set-top proposal. She was said to have interest in that input on Wheeler's proposal, which was a pivot from his original framework in the direction of an apps-based approach championed by MVPDs, but clearly not enough for programmers or ISPs.

Wheeler unveiled the new set-top variant Thursday afternoon in circulating it to the other commissioners for a vote at the Sept. 29 meeting.

Rosenworcel has had issues with the chairman's proposal since it was first introduced. She is all for promoting competition in the navigation device marketplace but is also sensitive to programmer and ISP concerns about protecting that content when it gets into the hands of third parties.

According to a just-filed document at the FCC, representatives of Disney, Time Warner, A&E, Scripps, CBS, Viacom, 21st Century Fox and Univision talked with Rosenworcel about their opposition to any proposal that allowed the FCC or a licensing body to alter the terms or conditions in program licensing deals, saying that would be the equivalent of creating a compulsory copyright license, which the FCC isn't authorized to impose, they said.

Rosenworcel made no commitments about the item, according to a source familiar with the conversations, an item chairman Wheeler wants to vote at the Sept. 29 meeting. According to multiple industry sources, they did not view her vote, which would be necessary for passage given the Republican commissioners' opposition, as a lock.

Commissioner Rosenworcel was not available for comment at press time.

One industry source opposed to the item characterized it as something put together to get an order that could be voted at the meeting, not something to survive judicial scrutiny or actually work.

The source said the FCC plan would require ISPs to build apps for any device platform, do it in two years, and do it without knowing who is going to want it or how to get folks to sign on to licenses that do not yet exist.

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.