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FCC Must Promote Discussion, Not Division on Set-Top Box Issue (Guest Column)

Keith Clinkscales is the CEO of Revolt Media.

Both sides of the set-top box discussion have argued from a position of “concern” for minority and diverse programming. Ironically, minority and independent owned media companies have the smallest voice and least amount of inclusion in the daily business that is “supposedly” speaking for “our” concerns.

The FCC’s proposal is only disguised as consumer friendly, but ultimately the defense from this onslaught will drive up costs and eliminate the need for minority programming. In a world that already has a constrained cable offering due to programming costs, anything that increases those costs (including the marketing and technology costs to defeat an insurgent like Google) will knock dollars off the table, and the minority programmers will suffer more than they have.

When Revolt launched in 2013, our goal was to create a music service unlike anything ever seen before. We created Revolt to give our audience the full scope of what’s happening across a diverse set of music genres, from alternative to rock to hip-hop.

From this idea, we have created the preeminent, multiplatform entertainment channel and destination in the country. Revolt ranks as the third largest independent network launch in cable TV history.

While millennials consume more music than ever, they don’t necessarily do so in the traditional ways of listening to the radio or watching TV. Recognizing this, Revolt actively communicates with our audience and incorporates their input. Through careful marketing and branding, Revolt today attracts more than 50 million young adults through television, digital properties, social media and mobile.

After all of the time and effort we have invested in growing our enterprise, it’s disappointing that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in its quest to try and introduce innovation to make the environment good for consumers, is doing so at the expense of the multichannel video programming distributors (“MVPD”).

The FCC is moving in a direction that will interfere with the work that minority and independently owned media does to build its unique programming. The proposal will create an environment that will force the cable companies to fight for their existence, to take valuable resources that could be used to promote and invest in diverse programming to instead, prepare for a core defense against a government-backed insurgence. This is not and should not ever be the role of the FCC.

The FCC should not upset this process by unfairly supporting a proposal that does not have the burden of paying to keep the industry working well for our nation. By the FCC’s support of the “Allvid” proposal the burden of cost that would be forced on MVPDs would be counterproductive to the business it is intended to grow. Independent and minority networks, who are already last in line, would simply get no resources, no opportunity, and no path to the audiences we serve.

To understand how bad this proposal is for companies like Revolt, it helps to understand that Revolt is more than a traditional music channel. Revolt is a place for news and information about music – not only the newsmakers, but also behind-the-scenes reporting on concerts, music festivals and other events that are important to our audiences. In these formative years, especially as the MVPDs adjust to the new on demand and OTT world, we at Revolt will need to adjust as well to make the world better for consumers.

The rapidly changing fields of entertainment, social media and the Internet are simply too complex and unsettled for the federal government to play favorites through regulatory fiat. There should be open hearings for the MVPDs to address the concerns of the FCC before they open the door to let other players in who are nowhere near as invested in the industry.

The Google proposal is scheduled for a vote on February 18. If approved, it will push the entertainment industry toward a bleak new order. It will enable other companies to grab programming, repackage and resell it without proper compensation or regard to the basic quality standards necessary for a successful relationship with the various established audiences.

Action is required and it is imperative that chairman Tom Wheeler take a stance to understand the full ramifications of this decision to hopefully avoid the inevitable disaster with an insurgent that is fighting for a concept, not for a land in which they live.

The FCC and the MVPDs should be urged to act in harmony, and promote peace and collaboration. Chairman Wheeler has a unique opportunity to lead our industry into a new, exciting world with a number of new entrants. But they cannot ignore the needs and concerns of the established players that serve as the foundation. Anything short of this will truly be disastrous for minority and independent programmers.

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