Congressional Dems Want More Info on FCC Set Top Box Plan

Congressional Dems Want More Info on FCC Set Top Box Plan

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On the Tuesday following Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler’s release of a new set top box proposal, Congressional Democratic leadership wants the Commission to clarify this latest wrinkle in the effort to #UnlockTheBox. After Wheeler put out an overview of the latest set top box plan he and his colleagues will likely vote on during their September 29th meeting, members of Congress want more answers on the future of television.

According to Politico, both Congressmen Tony Cardenas (D-CA) and Frank Palone (D-NJ), who’s the ranking member on the House Energy & Commerce Committee, are looking for greater details on Chairman Wheeler’s proposed route to increase competition in the set top box market.  “The FCC should release the text of the recent proposal with enough time for the public, consumer groups and industry stakeholders to sufficiently review the proposal before a vote by the commission,” Cárdenas said in a statement.

Joining Congressmen Cardenas and Palone, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committees, along with Republican leadership from the House Committee on Energy & Commerce, the Subcommittee on Communications & Technology, and the House Judiciary Committee, on Friday asked Chairman Wheeler to release the full proposal.  Saying that “the proposal would benefit from a more public process,” the leaders requested an immediate release of the Chairman’s latest plan.  Though the FCC maintains that it will not release release the proposal early, the members of Congress say it “raises issues of significance to both [the House Energy & Commerce and Judiciary Committees], and we believe the Commission should allow…all stakeholders time to meaningfully discuss the implications of the proposal.”

Despite relying on an apps-based model to address set top box concerns, critics of the new plan say it still leaves open too many unanswered questions. One of the most contentious aspects of the FCC’s new proposal is a requirement that the Commission facilitate the creation of, and oversee, a new licensing body meant to ensure that various set top box manufacturers have the proper rights to the content that may be delivered to consumers over their apps.

Beyond the members of Congress seeking additional details on the proposal, the creative community is largely skeptical about the FCC’s proposal as well. A2IM, the American Federation of Musicians, the Copyright Alliance, Creative Future, Crossings TV, the Directors Guild of America, IATSE, the Independent Film & Television Alliance, MPAA, the National Music Publisher’s Association, the Recording Industry Association of America, SAG-AFTRA, and Vme TV released a statement encapsulating their concerns:

“By all reports, the FCC’s revised set-top box proposal fails to address concerns we have repeatedly raised. Instead, the FCC creates an unacceptable and unworkable de facto compulsory licensing regime that requires creators to allow their work to be shared across multiple platforms without compensation and without regard to the creators’ rights to exclusively control their distribution. That’s authority the FCC does not have. This one-sided proposal undermines the value of creative works, shrinks revenue streams from which creators make a living, and threatens the hard-fought wages and benefits of creative industry workers.”

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