Set-Top Box, Independent Video on FCC's Sept. 29 Agenda

Two hotly contested Media Bureau issues will take up most of the time at the next Federal Communications Commission open meeting on Thursday, Sept. 29.

The proposed Report and Order called "Expanding Consumers' Video Navigation Choices"—better known as "unlock the box"—will face a commission vote after an intense seven months of cable industry criticism. Chairman Tom Wheeler calls the plan one that will "modernize" FCC rules and "allow consumers to use a device of their choosing to access multichannel video programming instead of leasing devices from their cable or satellite providers." The proposal has generated tens of thousands of public comments, many spurred by Silicon Valley's encouragement of the plan.

Also on the agenda is a Notice of Proposed Rule Making for "Promoting the Availability of Diverse and Independent Sources of Video." The FCC intends to encourage policies that give non-traditional program producers easier access to delivery systems. Supporters of the plan contend that such program creators face barriers to carriage on traditional MVPD channels and also on new online distribution platforms.

The Sept. 29 FCC line-up also includes a review of foreign ownership policies that would give broadcast licensees "the same streamlined rules and procedures that common carrier wireless licensees use to seek approval for foreign ownership, with appropriate broadcast-specific modifications." The item establishes a framework for a publicly traded common carrier or broadcast licensee or controlling U.S. parent to ascertain its foreign ownership levels.

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) round out the commission's agenda.  It will consider a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would leverage advancements in technology to improve WEA content, delivery and testing.

Gary Arlen

Contributor Gary Arlen is known for his insights into the convergence of media, telecom, content and technology. Gary was founder/editor/publisher of Interactivity Report, TeleServices Report and other influential newsletters; he was the longtime “curmudgeon” columnist for Multichannel News as well as a regular contributor to AdMap, Washington Technology and Telecommunications Reports. He writes regularly about trends and media/marketing for the Consumer Technology Association's i3 magazine plus several blogs. Gary has taught media-focused courses on the adjunct faculties at George Mason University and American University and has guest-lectured at MIT, Harvard, UCLA, University of Southern California and Northwestern University and at countless media, marketing and technology industry events. As President of Arlen Communications LLC, he has provided analyses about the development of applications and services for entertainment, marketing and e-commerce.