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 translation-please.com or multichannel.com/blog.