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

Hollywood still has problems with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's set-top box plan a week before a planned vote on the proposal Sept. 29.

That is according to an FCC document summarizing a series of meetings with FCC officials over the past several days.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler signaled there would be stakeholder talks and that he was willing to tweak his proposal.

According to the ex parte, executives from CBS, Viacom, and 21st Century Fox, met either in person or talked to FCC officials by phone to make their points about the proposal.

Those included that, while they appreciated the chairman's pivot from his "unlock the box" proposal to an app-based approach, they could not support any arrangement in which content was distributed on terms to which they had not agreed. That, they said, would be a compulsory license that the FCC was not empowered to impose.

They said the FCC should "refrain from exercising any and all form of oversight or review over the terms and conditions of any license that results from distribution of content."

The Wheeler proposal gives the FCC the authority to review app licenses to insure they are reasonable and not anticompetitive. But that is too much for the studios.

In fact, they don't want the FCC getting near the license. "The commission should not--through review of license terms,

adjudications or complaint processes or any other means--create an end result in which programmers are forced to distribute content on terms that conflict with or otherwise undermine their affiliate agreements with MVPDs."

They advised the FCC to wait and review the marketplace two years after the deadline for launching the new app and then see if it needed to step in, within its existing authority.

Amazon, for one, suggested that there could be an FCC complaint process.

FCC staffers asked the programmers about that Amazon suggestion. The programmers said they had concerns with it, including a lack of detail, and the inclusion of the FCC complaint process.

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.