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What Is Title 6 Video?

Maybe this is happening to
you, too. A conversation begins.
It’s about over-the-top
video, or usage-based broadband,
or any of the tangents
that go with the new world
of video on TVs and screens
not necessarily connected to
a set-top box.

Then you hear it: “Title 6
video.” Here’s an example,
from several batches of notes. “Look. To be a multichannel-
video provider (MVPD), you have to comply with the
Title 6 rules.” Here’s another: “Anyone with a video server
at the edge of the network wants to think they’re an MVPD.
But they’re not Title 6.”

And because “Title 6” is a term that’s been around
so long (nigh on 30 years), the natural reaction is to nod
solemnly: Ah yes. Title 6.

Which raises the question: What is Title 6 video?

Short version: It’s an outgrowth of the Communications
Act, and is the chapter that includes the Cable Act, etched
in 1984. Title 1 is general info; Title 2 regulates common
carriers; Title 3 applies to broadcasters; and so on up to
Title 6, cable.

It mandates all the things one needs to do, in order to
be a multichannel video provider. Or, in regulatory lingo,
an MVPD.

Here’s a sampling of what’s in the Title 6 rules: Franchising.
Closed captioning. Must-carry. Ownership. Emergency
alerts. Blackouts. PEG (public, education and government)
channels. Program access. Navigation devices.

There’s more, but it turns out that Title 6 is more dated
than practical these days, given the volume and pace of
technological change over the last 28 years. Why? Those
rules were made at a time when signal paths were in silos,
and few of them. Phone service came from the phone company
over twisted pair. Cable TV came from cable operators
over their plant.

These days, everything’s an app, with plenty of pathways
into the home.

Should any guy with a video server at the edge of the
network be considered an MVPD, without complying with
Title 6 commitments? The knee-jerk answer is no. But maybe
a better question is this: Rather than try to shoehorn old
rules into a new scene, why not ask what’s to be expected
from video providers?

There are those who would say that the over-the-top video
community views such regulations as a tool kit, from
which to help themselves to the assets of others. Take the
good or doable parts — think program access and compulsory
copyright. Leave the rest, like retransmission consent
and the complexity of the Title 6 obligations.

That’s a very short look at a very complicated cog in the
tech regulatory machinery. More to come.

Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis at