Leibowitz Backs FCC Moves


Federal Trade Commission
chairman Jon Leibowitz spoke
last week with Multichannel
Washington bureau chief
John Eggerton about issues
affecting the cable-television

MCN: You said at the Cable
Show that you believed cable
operators were not going to
discriminate in their broadband
business and you cited the
‘paucity’ of violations. So, why
should the FCC try to reclassify
broadband under Title II?

Jon Leibowitz: I think the rhetoric
is so heated and pitched on net
neutrality. I am very supportive
of what [FCC] chairman [Julius
Genachowski] wants to do, and
the approach he is taking, which
is very much a light touch. I think
you want to preserve the open
character of the Internet. We have
a role to play in consumer protection,
and maybe antitrust, in this
area. Obviously, some of this depends
on precisely what the language
is that the FCC uses.

You can reverse that question
and say: If there haven’t been any
violations and if the companies
are saying there won’t be, why
do they care if there is a prohibition
on discrimination with reasonable
network management
permitted? It seems to me that is
sort of the core of what you want
to do in this area. You want to allow
companies to stop the bandwidth
hogs that slow down their
neighbors’ speeds, or to put in
place a system that will inhibit
that conduct.

A lot of what I hear from broadband
providers by the way isn’t so
much a concern about what future
FCCs do. But I tend to think
that if they get it right here, that
that will be where it is.

MCN: You also gave a shoutout
to behavioral marketing
at The Cable Show. Would you
like to revise and extend those

Yes. It is a very complicated
area. Obviously, we all enjoy and
have come to expect free content,
which is clearly subsidized by advertising.
But behavioral advertising
does raise questions of consumer
choice, and it does raise
questions of consumer control.

We have been seeing some
useful developments in the private
sector, but we are also going
to stay on top of it. We are doing
a series of workshops and are going
to be writing a report, probably
for release in the fall, to follow
up on the self-regulatory principles
we released in 2009.

And, as a general matter, we are
trying to think through the complicated
behavioral marketing issues.
And they are at least as complicated
with social networks.

MCN: You said in your partial
dissent in the Adelphia [Communications]
breakup decision
back in 2005 that if the FTC saw
any evidence of anticompetitive
behavior in sports programming
“from those who control both
content and distribution,” the
commission would be able to
take some action. We haven’t
seen any action. Does that mean
everything is fine?

I guess I would say this: I am
very upset that [Major League
Baseball commissioner Bud]
Selig did not give a perfect game
to [pitcher Armando] Galarraga.
But in terms of problems with
sports, no one has brought to our
attention any major ones involving
sports programming. We did
have an antitrust concern that
was resolved by the Supreme
Court in American Needle. We
didn’t want sports leagues to
have a blanket pass to negotiate
as a single entity.

WASHINGTON — Unless the Federal Communications Commission
moves it at the last minute, June 21 is the deadline for filing
petitions to deny the Comcast-NBC Universal joint venture. Check
multichannel.com for updates.