Thune to Wheeler: Set-Top Plan Needs FNPRM

Add a couple more drums to the drumbeat for FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to publish the text of his app-based set-top proposal as a further notice of proposed rulemaking (FNPRM) so that there could be public comment on plan, which has changed at least a couple of times from his initial "unlock the box" proposal.

On Friday (Sept. 30), Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, wrote Wheeler to make that pitch. Wheeler has said that the public has had a couple years to comment, suggesting that FNPRM isn't happening.

“Your new proposal is intended to benefit consumers, yet those same consumers are not currently able to read this far-reaching new plan," said Thune. "For a rulemaking that is expected to take years before it is fully implemented, there is no need or urgency for the Commission to rush behind closed doors to adopt a final order."

That is a reference to the fact that while the item did not get a public vote, it is on circulation, where once it gets three votes it is on the clock and would after a couple of weeks be de facto approved whether the other commissioners had voted it.

"Sunlight in government proceedings is critical for ensuring outcomes that provide the most benefit possible for the American people," said Thune, who also referenced a call by Democrat Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.) for publication.

After the chairman nixed a vote on the proposal at the Sept. 29 public meeting--he clearly did not have the necessary three votes for an item he said was getting some last minute editing and content-tweaking--the calls for him to publish the text grew.

Also on Friday, the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) echoed that call for public comment. "

Yesterday’s action should prompt the FCC to ask the public for feedback on the current proposal to assist the commissioners in arriving at the best possible result for current and future television viewers, as well as content creators,” said MMTC President Kim Keenan. "The deletion of the set-top box item from the open meeting agenda validates our concerns and provides the agency an opportunity to be more transparent about the details," she said.

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.