FCC's Rosenworcel: OTT Will Factor Into Independent Programmer Access Review

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel
(Image credit: FCC)

Acting FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel said Thursday (Nov. 18) that her planned refresh of the record on independent content providers' access to distribution platforms will need to include over-the-top video.

Rosenworcel weighed in on the issue at her post monthly meeting press conference in response to a query from Next TV.

Rosenworcel had agreed to the lookback after she was queried during her nomination hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee this week by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who has heard from independents about the difficulties of negotiating carriage with distribution platforms.

Also: Rosenworcel Pledges to Re-Examine Video Programming

The FCC opened a Notice of Inquiry on the subject back in 2015 under then chair Tom Wheeler, but it was shuttered without taking any action despite reports that Wheeler was working on independent program access rules.

Asked what issues, if any, she had and whether the proliferation of OTT outlets for content somewhat mitigated her concerns, she did not go into specifics but did say she was committed to opening a new proceeding on the issue.

Also: Amazon to FCC: Many OTTs Don't Want Program-Access Rights

"The FCC had a proceeding on this some years ago and the docket was closed by my predecessor," she said.

Once it is re-opened, she signaled, OTT will get its fair share of the FCC's attention. "I think that moving ahead in this environment would require us to open a new proceeding and also ask questions that reflect the moment we're in," Rosenworcel said. "As you just described where watching is not just a function of linear programing but for many households it is also using new streaming services."

Some have argued that more streaming services means more places for independent programming to find shelf space. And while in 2015 OTT was not considered a platform on par with traditional distribution channels, that has clearly changed in the past decade. But others say that the 800 pound gorillas of traditional distribution have simply been mirrored online by the Netflixes, Amazon Primes and Paramount Plusses of the world. ■

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.