SAN FRANCISCO, October 19th, 2010 — Senator John Kerry (D-Mass) on Tuesday prodded Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski to take action in the business dispute between Cablevision and Fox Television when he sent over draft legislation that would change the way cable companies and broadcasters arrive at carriage agreements.
The legislation, sent over for FCC comment, proposes to allow cable companies to continue carrying broadcast programming if contract negotiations break down, but broadcasters would ultimately retain the right to pull their signals.
“The goal is to offer a path to potential resolution of differences and protect consumers,” Kerry wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Genachowski. “It would stave off the termination of carriage on expiration of an agreement and allow signals to continue transmitting until the FCC evaluates the behavior of the parties and recommends or does not recommend binding arbitration during which carriage would continue.”
Kerry, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee’s communications, technology and internet subcommittee, added that the legislative proposal would still allow broadcasters to block their signals from being retransmitted. But it would only do so after achieving “much greater transparency” in the negotiation process, and “a more systematic effort at reaching agreement without consumers getting caught in the middle.”
The proposed legislation would make the FCC the arbitrator throughout the dispute-resolution process, and the agency would have to determine whether each side is negotiating in good faith or not, and then take the appropriate actions to address the situation.
Kerry is one of several lawmakers who have in the past few days weighed in on the dispute between Cablevision and Fox over the payment of retransmission consent fees.
Most lawmakers have urged both sides to make more of an effort to come to some agreement so that the affected subscribers don’t suffer through a sports black-out.
Cablevision charges that Fox is demanding unreasonable amounts of money for its programming, but Fox says that it’s managed to reach agreements with other cable companies, and that it’s Cablevision that’s being unreasonable.
The dispute is being closely watched by lawmakers, Wall Street and policy analysts because it’s a long unresolved fight that affects both the profits of both firms and norms within their industries. At issue is also the broadcast industry’s use of the public spectrum, a public resource.
The current contract between the two companies expired at midnight Friday. Cablevision’s three million customers in the New York metropolitan region are no longer receiving their Fox-owned stations.
The two sides haven’t been able to reach an agreement, and have instead extended their rhetorical war for public opinion to the pages of the New York Times, online social networks and web sites.
Fox has created a web site that enables Cablevision subscribers to find alternatives, for example.
The current dispute is the latest of several that have occurred over the past couple of years.
A coalition of cable companies and non-profit groups petitioned the FCC this March to change the rules regarding retransmission consent, saying that they’re outdated.
Cablevision, along with Time Warner Cable, and the American Cable Association were among the 13 petitioners.
Like Kerry’s legislative proposal, it proposes that the broadcasters should continue to allow the cable companies to carry their signals even after the contracts between the two sides have expired as the two sides negotiate, among other things.
Kerry noted in his letter that the FCC has yet to respond.
“The FCC has had sufficient time to consider the comments that have been filed on that petition and begin the process to revise its rules,” he wrote. “But in the absence of FCC action, I feel a responsibility to begin to consider the smartest, least intrusive actions to reform the law.”
Genachowski issued a statement Tuesday simply saying that he’s called both sides to admonish them, and that the commission is monitoring the situation.
For a review of the issues at stake, and what the companies’ lobbyists are arguing in policy circles in Washington, DC, readers can refer to the Intellectual Property Breakfast Club’s event video from this June.
FTC Commissioner Concerned About Antitrust Impact on Already Rising Consumer Prices
Noah Phillips said Tuesday he wants the commission to think about the impact of antitrust rules on rising prices.
WASHINGTON, May 17, 2022 – Rising inflation should be a primary concern for the Federal Trade Commission when considering antitrust regulations on Big Tech, said Commissioner Noah Phillips Tuesday.
When considering laws, “the important thing is what impact it has on the consumer,” said Phillips. “We need to continue to guard like a hawk against conduct and against laws that have the effect of raising prices for consumers.”
Current record highs in the inflation rate, which means money is becoming less valuable as products become more expensive, has meant Washington must become sensitive to further price increases that could come out of such antitrust legislation, the commissioner said.
Phillips did not comment on how such movies would mean higher prices, but that signals, such as theHouse Judiciary Committee’s antitrust report two years ago, that reign in Big Tech companies and bring back enforcement of laws could mean higher prices. He raised concerns that recent policies are prohibiting competition rather than facilitating it.
This follows recent concerns that the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, currently awaiting Senate floor consideration, will inhibit America’s global competitiveness by weakening major American companies, thus impairing the American economy. That legislation would prohibit platform owners from giving preference to their products against third-party products.
This act is one of many currently under consideration at Congress, including Ending Platform Monopolies Act and Platform Competition and Opportunity Act.
Small businesses have worried that by enacting some legislation targeting Big Tech, they would be impacted because they rely on such platforms for success.
Small Business Owners Call for FTC, DOJ to Institute Antitrust Measures Against Big Tech
Small business owners vocalized concerns at a forum hosted by the FTC and the DoJ.
WASHINGTON, May 17, 2022 – Small business owners and employees urged the Federal Trade Commission last week to take further action against big tech company mergers that dominate their markets.
With Washington’s focus on scrutinizing potential mergers, small business members that appeared on a forum Thursday hosted by the FTC and Justice Department pushed for antitrust measures against market monopolization that they said undermines small business success. Jonathan Kanter, the assistant attorney general for the antitrust Division, called this a “new generation of digital giants.”
Saagar Enjeti, host of a media podcast, expressed his inability to participate in a truly free and open internet due to the influence of big tech companies, in which he said there has been a rash of misinformation on the coronavirus, the 2020 presidential election, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Bradley Tusk, a venture capitalist who invests in tech startups, said he wants the FTC to have “more scrutiny” on big tech mergers. “The FTC should aggressively do everything in its power to do the job itself,” said Tusk.
Erin Wade agreed for more scrutiny on monopolies in which DoorDash and UberEats compete. As a restaurant owner, she said delivery mega platforms are harming restaurant profits and disrupting their business via tactics including underpricing their delivery fees and “bund[ling] orders so badly it damages customer relations.
“Small businesses are central to the American economy and American democracy,” Wade said during the event, pushing for the FTC to place more scrutiny on big tech companies.
According to FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan, as several digital platforms continue to control the market today, anti-trust agencies should do what they can to encourage competition and provide checks on these big tech companies.
Parler Policy Exec Hopes ‘Sustainable’ Free Speech Change on Twitter if Musk Buys Platform
Parler’s Amy Peikoff said she wishes Twitter can follow in her social media company’s footsteps.
WASHINGTON, May 16, 2022 – A representative from a growing conservative social media platform said last week that she hopes Twitter, under new leadership, will emerge as a “sustainable” platform for free speech.
Amy Peikoff, chief policy officer of social media platform Parler, said as much during a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event Wednesday, in which she wondered about the implications of platforms banning accounts for views deemed controversial.
The social media world has been captivated by the lingering possibility that SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk could buy Twitter, which the billionaire has criticized for making decisions he said infringe on free speech.
Before Musk’s decision to go in on the company, Parler saw a surge in member sign-ups after former President Donald Trump was banned from Twitter for comments he made that the platform saw as encouraging the Capitol riots on January 6, 2021, a move Peikoff criticized. (Trump also criticized the move.)
Peikoff said she believes Twitter should be a free speech platform just like Parler and hopes for “sustainable” change with Musk’s promise.
“At Parler, we expect you to think for yourself and curate your own feed,” Peikoff told Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark. “The difference between Twitter and Parler is that on Parler the content is controlled by individuals; Twitter takes it upon itself to moderate by itself.”
She recommended “tools in the hands of the individual users to reward productive discourse and exercise freedom of association.”
Peikoff criticized Twitter for permanently banning Donald Trump following the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, and recounted the struggle Parler had in obtaining access to hosting services on AWS, Amazon’s web services platform.
While she defended the role of Section 230 of the Telecom Act for Parler and others, Peikoff criticized what she described as Twitter’s collusion with the government. Section 230 provides immunity from civil suits for comments posted by others on a social media network.
For example, Peikoff cited a July 2021 statement by former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki raising concerns with “misinformation” on social media. When Twitter takes action to stifle anti-vaccination speech at the behest of the White House, that crosses the line into a form of censorship by social media giants that is, in effect, a form of “state action.”
Conservatives censored by Twitter or other social media networks that are undertaking such “state action” are wrongfully being deprived of their First Amendment rights, she said.
“I would not like to see more of this entanglement of government and platforms going forward,” she said Peikoff and instead to “leave human beings free to information and speech.”
The acquisition of social media powerhouse Twitter by Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, raises a host of issues about social media, free speech, and the power of persuasion in our digital age. Twitter already serves as the world’s de facto public square. But it hasn’t been without controversy, including the platform’s decision to ban former President Donald Trump in the wake of his tweets during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Under new management, will Twitter become more hospitable to Trump and his allies? Does Twitter have a free speech problem? How will Mr. Musk’s acquisition change the debate about social media and Section 230 of the Telecommunications Act?
Guests for this Broadband Breakfast for Lunch session:
- Amy Peikoff, Chief Policy Officer, Parler
- Drew Clark (host), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast
Amy Peikoff is the Chief Policy Officer of Parler. After completing her Ph.D., she taught at universities (University of Texas, Austin, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, United States Air Force Academy) and law schools (Chapman, Southwestern), publishing frequently cited academic articles on privacy law, as well as op-eds in leading newspapers across the country on a range of issues. Just prior to joining Parler, she founded and was President of the Center for the Legalization of Privacy, which submitted an amicus brief in United States v. Facebook in 2019.
Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he served as head of a State Broadband Initiative, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.
As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.
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