Wheeler Praises Softening of Stakeholder Set-Top 'Stiff-Arm'

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler made it clear that what he likes most about the National Cable & Telecommunications Association's "ditch the box" set-top proposal was that MVPDs and programmers were at least talking about finding common ground.

In a press conference following the FCC's monthly meeting Thursday (July 15), Wheeler did not talk much about the proposal itself, declining to elaborate on what more he wanted MVPDs to explain about the proposal--though the FCC has signaled a bunch of issues in questions staffers submitted to those MVPDs, as Multichannel News/B&C reported last week.

Instead, the chairman highlighted the fact that they were finally talking.

"I am grateful to the industry that they accepted my invitation," he said. "I have been saying for weeks if not months: 'Let's sit down and talk...and it was being met with a stiff arm."

He said that the discussions he has since been having with MVPDs and programmers (and consumers) were all important. "So, I am very happy about the kind of ongoing dialogue that is occurring around this issue because it wasn't occurring previously."

Wheeler said set-top box leasing was a rigged system, and that whatever the answer, it needed to give consumers meaningful choice while protecting copyright, and contracts and privacy and security.

"We are in discussions to find out where we can have an accord," he said. "I think that is a responsible and meaningful thing to do."

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.