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Showbiz Groups Pan FCC’s Latest Set-Top Box Proposal


A group of entertainment guilds and unions, and other organizations are rallying behind Hollywood studios against an FCC proposal that would require cable and satellite operators to offer a free app so subscribers can forgo the set-top box and stream the programming lineup instead.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has pitched the proposal as a way to boost competition in the TV navigation market, noting that the average subscriber pays $231 a year in rental fees and has few alternatives.

On Wednesday, the MPAA was joined by a series of other groups, including the Directors Guild of America, IATSE, SAG-AFTRA, the Independent Film and Television Alliance, the Recording Industry Assn. of America, CreativeFuture, and the American Federation of Musicians in opposing the set-top box plan. It’s scheduled to come to a vote before the FCC on Sept. 28.

“We do not profit from set-top box fees and welcome new distribution opportunities for our creative talent,” the organizations said in a statement. “But it cannot come at the expense of the millions of Americans who make a living in the film, television, and music industries. By all reports, the FCC’s revised set-top box proposal fails to address concerns we have repeatedly raised.”

The organizations contend that the proposal would create a “compulsory licensing regime” that would require “creators to allow their work to be shared across multiple platforms without compensation and without regard to creators’ rights to exclusively control their distribution.”

The FCC says that existing deals between content companies and cable and satellite distributors would remain in place. The proposal calls for the creation of a licensing body, made up of members from multi-channel distribution and programming, to come up with a standard license for device makers to feature the app. The FCC would have oversight authority to ensure that the terms of the license are not anti-competitive.

Also signing on in opposition were A2IM, the Copyright Alliance, Crossings TV, the National Music Publishers Association, and VmeTV.

Update: The Writers Guild of America West is supporting Wheeler’s proposal, saying that it “gives consumers real choice in the device used to access MVPD programming and promotes content competition. At the same time, it will protect copyright and the programming available to consumers through MVPDs.”

The WGAW noted that many cable and satellite companies already provide apps of their lineups that provide “sufficient piracy protection.”

The WGAW also says that FCC oversight of the licensing of the app is “critical to the ultimate success of the proposal.” They said that it would ensure that the license cannot be used to put independent programmers at a disadvantage or to favor their own content in search results.

The WGAW made the comments in a letter to Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and its ranking member, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).


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