Groups to FCC: Block Buffoons, Unlock the Box

Free Press, others say set-top proposal helps diversity
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Get complete coverage of the FCC's set-top proposal.

Free Press, joined by 30-plus diversity groups (ColorOfChange, Center for Media Justice) and independent creators filed a letter at the FCC maintaining that MVPDs oppose the FCC's set-top proposal because they want to preserve their $20 billion set-top rental business.

Diversity groups are divided over the proposal, which would mandate that ISPs make their set-top data and content available to third party device makers and app developers so they could aggregate it with over-the-top content in their navigation options.

Generally the issue splits between established diverse programmers like BET and TV One who see it as a threat to their business model and smaller, OTT players who see it as a way to get noticed among those established players.

"Unlocking the box represents an end to the buffoonery, gatekeeping and lack of competition our communities have suffered from for far too long,” said CEO Clifford Franklin, who last week made it clear he thought MVPDs had essentially bought the Congressional Black Caucus's support with "tickets and tables."

Caucus leaders last week, joined by representatives of BET, TV One and others, asked the FCC to hit the pause button on the proposal until it had studied the impact on diversity.

But Free Press, Franklin and others argue that lowering the cost of boxes will provide relief for minority communities--hundreds if not thousands of dollars over the life of their navigation devices--and allow them to access more independent content, particularly over-the-top, not currently getting shelf space on the major MVPDs.

"It is critical for the FCC to take action now," they said. "The cable industry for decades has thwarted efforts to create a competitive set-top market in order to protect its profits."

May 23 was the deadline for reply comments on the FCC's proposal.