×

FCC Nears Vote on Contentious Set-Top Box Proposal

The FCC is poised to vote on a proposal Thursday designed to free consumers from renting cable and satellite set-top boxes, but questions remained on the final details of the plan.

The proposal would require that multichannel distributors, such as Comcast and Charter, offer a free app to subscribers that would allow them to access their programming on different devices and streaming services.

Hollywood studios and other content companies oppose the proposal’s call for the creation of a body that would be tasked with licensing the app. They fear that because the FCC would have oversight over the licensing, they would be forced to distribute content in ways with which they do not agree.

Earlier this month, FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel expressed reservations over the licensing aspect of the proposal, leading to speculation that the plan was in for changes before the vote. Given the partisan split of the commission, her vote would be crucial.

Representatives from the Walt Disney Co., CBS Corp., Scripps Networks Interactive, and Time Warner met with FCC officials and discussed an alternative to the licensing plan. Instead of FCC oversight, the agency would conduct a “reevaluation” of the marketplace in 2020.

“This would provide time for apps to be deployed and for the app market to develop and function and, if necessary at the conclusion of that period, enable the Commission to assess whether any additional steps — consistent with its authority — should be taken,” according to an exparte filing from the companies. In the interim, the FCC would decline to entertain any complaints regarding the terms of the license.

On Tuesday, several Capitol Hill lawmakers urged the FCC to pass the set-top box plan.

“When we unlock the box, we unlock competition, we unlock choice, and we unlock innovation,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said in a conference call with reporters. He urged the commission to “finalize these rules without delay,” noting that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 mandated competition in the TV navigation marketplace.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) said that the discussions with the programmers and FCC officials were a “very important step forward.”

She also downplayed a letter that 63 House Democrats sent to the FCC last week urging them to delay the vote because of the programmers’ copyright concerns.

“I approached a few members who signed that letter,” she said. “I asked them why they had signed it. There was silence.”

Robert Johnson, the founder of BET, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) also joined them in the call supporting the proposal, along with representatives from Consumers Union, the Writers Guild of America West and Best Buy.

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Harvey Weinstein

    Weinstein Can Get a Fair Trial in Manhattan, Says D.A.

    The Manhattan District Attorney’s office argued on Friday that Harvey Weinstein can get a fair trial in Manhattan, and blamed the producer’s defense team for much of the pre-trial publicity in the case. Weinstein’s attorneys have asked an appellate court to transfer the case — which is set to begin on Sept. 9 — to [...]

  • Leonardo DiCaprio Madonna

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Madonna Call for Action on Amazon Wildfires

    As wildfires rage at an alarming rate in Brazil’s Amazon rain forest, celebrities are using their platforms to bring awareness to the deforestation’s impact and to call for action. In the past week, stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Madonna, Cara Delevingne and Ariana Grande have taken to Instagram to express their frustration with the lack of [...]

  • 'The Durrells' TV Show

    Greece Sweetens Production Incentives as Struggling Country's Economy Rebounds

    It’s taken the better part of a decade for Greece to show signs of recovery from the crippling crisis that almost pushed it out of the Eurozone. Now, with the economy slowly on the mend, the government is doubling down on efforts to jump-start the local film industry, giving a dramatic overhaul to the incentive [...]

  • Warner Music Group Partners With Audiomack

    Warner Music Group Partners With Audiomack

    Warner Music Group announced it has entered a partnership with the music streaming and discovery service Audiomack, marking the platform’s first licensing deal with a major label. According to the announcement, the two companies will work together on content concepts and explore ways to break emerging artists, connecting music fans with rising talent before they [...]

  • Scooter Braun Congratulates Taylor Swift on

    Scooter Braun Congratulates Taylor Swift on ‘Brilliant’ Album and Campaign

    Two days after Taylor Swift fired off the latest salvo in her battle with Scooter Braun, the manager congratulated the singer on the campaign around her “brilliant” new album, “Lover,” which arrived last night. The message came after Swift said she will be re-recording songs from her first six albums, which are now owned by [...]

  • David Koch Obit

    David Koch, Libertarian Activist and Billionaire Philanthropist, Dies at 79

    David Koch, brother of Charles Koch and one of the owners of Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the U.S., has died at 79. According to the New York Times, Charles Koch announced the news of his brother’s death in a statement. Though he did not attribute to David’s death to a particular cause, [...]

  • Beverly Hills Realtor Accused of Stealing

    Beverly Hills Realtor Accused of Stealing From Usher, Adam Lambert

    A Beverly Hills real estate agent has been arrested on charges of stealing from the homes of celebrities, including Usher, Adam Lambert and “Real Housewives” star Dorit Kemsley. Jason Emil Yaselli, 32, is accused of encouraging an accomplice, Benjamin Ackerman, to enter homes during open houses in order to steal from them. Ackerman allegedly sold [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content