Set-Tops: NAB Advises FCC to Stay Out of Licensing

National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith dialed up FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to tell her about his problems with the FCC's set-top box proposal.

Rosenworcel's vote will likely be necessary if Chairman Tom Wheeler's apps-based set-top plan is to be approved. She has said she has concerns about its impact on content.

According to an ex parte filing with the commission, Smith told her that the potential for the FCC to alter privately-held contracts governing the use of broadcast content was a nonstarter.

Related: Democrats Push FCC's Wheeler for Set-Top Further Notice

"Commission involvement in writing the substantive terms of any license under this proposal would exceed the Commission's authority and fatally undermine the Commission's stated goal of protecting content and respecting copyright and contracts," he said.

The Copyright Office said of the FCC's initial set-top plan that the FCC should not restrict copyright owners' ability to impose reasonable conditions, so in Wheeler's new proposal, the chairman said the FCC would only step in to change contracts if they were unreasonable or anticompetitive, but NAB is on the same page with MVPDs that that is too much authority over contracts as it is, and a space the FCC is not authorized to enter.

Related: Sen. Feinstein to Wheeler: Publish Set-top Proposal

But NAB is not on the same page as cable ops when it comes to waivers.

NAB took aim at the American Cable Association's request to exempt operators with under a million subs from the set-top rules, which it has conveyed in meetings with Rosenworcel staffers and others.

Related: Set-Tops—Studios Don't Want FCC Anywhere Near App Contracts

"ACA grossly overstates the costs and complexity of implementing the Commission’s proposals. Once again, ACA is playing the part of Chicken Little with the Commission, ever at the ready to cry, 'The sky is falling!' Any exemption should be confined to analog cable systems," NAB says.

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.