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What’s in a Name?

WASHINGTON — When is a cable operator not a cable operator? When it is a reseller of satellite service.

The Federal Communications Commission has provided clarification on the definition of a multichannel video programming distributor in some circumstances.

That came in reversing an FCC Media Bureau decision made under former chairman Tom Wheeler.

The new acting Media Bureau chief, Michelle Carey, said that a cable operator, when it is reselling satellite service, is not acting as an MVPD when it comes to having to secure retransmission consent.

The FCC had upheld a Florida TV station complaint against OpticalTel for delivering its signal without retransmission consent. OpticalTel is a South Florida MVPD that also acts as a reseller of satellite service.

On reconsideration, Carey said the Media Bureau had erred in that August 2016 decision, agreeing with OpticalTel that the FCC should have looked to applicable precedent that “the obligation to obtain retransmission consent rests with the [direct broadcast satellite] operator, Dish [Network], rather than the DBS reseller,” instead of focusing on the lack of a retrans agreement.

The FCC rules do say that when a satellite carrier retransmits a signal to a cable system, the cable operator, not the satellite operator, is responsible for securing retrans permission. But Carey said that’s a footnote to a general rule that the satellite-TV operator is responsible, and that in this case, OpticalTel was “acting as a DBS reseller, not as a cable operator.”

John Eggerton
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.