The FCC’s February Open Meeting, set for Thursday, has emerged as a virtual boxing ring that pits the American Cable Association (ACA) and a group of eight independent programmers against the NAB on one of the most important issues to face the TV industry in years.
With just days remaining, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Mignon Clyburn are likely formulating their opinions and preliminary voting decisions on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that proposes to let television broadcasters use the “Next Generation” broadcast television transmission standard associated with recent work of the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC 3.0) on a voluntary, market-driven basis.
As far as the NAB is concerned, the requests by the ACA and the independent broadcasters urging the Commission to examine capacity issues closely as it considers rules governing the proposed ATSC 3.0 transition “impose additional regulatory burdens” on its deployment.
As reported on Friday (2/17) by RBR + TVBR, the programmers believe that the notice should raise questions along the lines of those suggested by American Cable Association (ACA), which has already asked the Commission what impact ATSC 3.0’s shift will have on small MVPDs.
In comments sent to the Commission Friday, NAB Associate General Counsel Patrick McFadden reveals that he and NAB VP/Spectrum Policy Alison Greenwald Neplokh met with David Grossman, of Commissioner Clyburn’s office, and Robin Colwell of Commissioner O’Rielly’s office to discuss the draft NPRM.
The gist of the meeting can be summed up by this NAB assertion: “NAB continues to support a voluntary, market-driven deployment of Next Gen TV. The Commission’s goal in this proceeding should be to allow broadcasters to innovate – not to micromanage how they do so.”
It urged the Commission to reject the requests of the independent programmers and the ACA, on the grounds that additional mandates and regulations would transpire.
“Seeking to impose arbitrary new content or format restrictions on broadcasters will only hamper their ability to manage the Next Gen transition and delay the deployment of innovative new services and features to the viewing public,” McFadden said.
Furthermore, McFadden slammed the ACA by saying the Commission should also reject its “the tired invitation” to substitute its judgment for market forces “by intruding in retransmission consent negotiations to favor the narrow self-interest of ACA’s members.”
He continued, “If ACA’s members find it unprofitable to resell broadcasters’ signals, nothing forces them to continue to do so. If ACA’s members are aggrieved by specific actions during their negotiations, they are free to allege a violation of the Commission’s good faith negotiation standard and prove that claim on a fact-specific basis. Instead, ACA asks the Commission to put a regulatory thumb on the scale to benefit cable companies by prejudging private contractual negotiations. That is not the Commission’s role. ”
RBR + TVBR