Set-Tops: NAB Advises FCC To Stay Out of Licensing

Smith tells Rosenworcel that would be fatal to content protection

National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith dialed up FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to tell her about his problems with FCC's set-top box proposal.

Rosenworcel's vote will likely be necessary if Chairman Tom Wheeler's apps-based set-top plan is to be approved.  She has said she has concerns about its impact on content.

According to an ex parte filing with the commission, Smith told her that the potential for the FCC to alter privately- held contracts governing the use of broadcast content was a nonstarter.

"Commission involvement in writing the substantive terms of any license under this proposal would exceed the Commission's authority and fatally undermine the Commission's stated goal of protecting content and respecting copyright and contracts," he said.

The Copyright Office said of the FCC's initial set-top plan that the FCC should not restrict copyright owners' ability to impose reasonable conditions, so in Wheeler's new proposal, the chairman said the FCC would only step in to change contracts if they were unreasonable or anticompetitive, but NAB is on the same page with MVPDs that that is too much authority over contracts as it is, and a space the FCC is not authorized to enter.

But NAB is not on the same page as cable ops when it comes to waivers.

NAB took aim at the American Cable Association's request to exempt operators with under a million subs from the set-top rules, which it has conveyed in meetings with Rosenworcel staffers and others.

"ACA grossly overstates the costs and complexity of implementing the Commission’s proposals. Once again, ACA is playing the part of Chicken Little with the Commission, ever at the ready to cry, “The sky is falling!” Any exemption should be confined to analog cable systems," NAB says.