Connect with us

Big Tech

Federal Communications Commission To Update Media Marketplace Rules

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2011 — The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday moved to tweak the rules governing the terms on which cable companies and satellite operators can re-transmit the signals of broadcasters in the wake of several high-profile disputes that often left consumers in the dark at critical programming moments.

Published

on

“It’s time to take a fresh look and explore whether there are measures we can take to allow the market-based process contemplated by the retransmission consent laws to operate more smoothly, and serve consumers and the marketplace,” says FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski PHOTO: V. Proffer

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2011 — The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday moved to update the rules governing the terms on which cable companies and satellite operators can re-transmit the signals of broadcasters in the wake of several high-profile disputes that often left consumers in the dark at critical programming moments.

“Retransmission consent negotiations have become more contentious recently, and consumers have gotten caught in the middle,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in a statement issued Thursday.

“Last fall, millions of cable subscribers lost access to baseball playoff and World Series games, and many other viewers have been blindsided by less publicized disputes,” he noted.

“It’s time to take a fresh look and explore whether there are measures we can take to allow the market-based process contemplated by the retransmission consent laws to operate more smoothly, and serve consumers and the marketplace.”

The commission decided to examine several proposals that it hopes will better protect consumers during the retransmission consent negotiation process between the various media and telecommunications companies, but it declined a request to get directly involved in the negotiation process from a large coalition of cable and satellite companies, and public interest groups.

Specifically, the commissioners declined to arbitrate disputes when they break down and come to an impasse, and they rebuffed the idea of ordering continued carriage of the broadcasters’ signals during such impasses.

They said they don’t have the authority to do those things.

Instead,  the commissioners want to examine how the mechanics of the marketplace can be improved in light of the radical changes in the modern media marketplace.

They’re interested in the idea of eliminating the commission’s network non-duplication and syndicated exclusivity rules. That would mean that broadcasters would have to enforce their contractual rights through litigation in the courts, rather than through the commission.

The commission is also interested in rules that would require more notice to consumers about possible disruptions during negotiation impasses, and providing more detailed guidance to players in the marketplace about what the “good-faith negotiation” requirements are.

Consumers lately have often gotten plenty of notice about disruptions to their service as companies on both sides publish YouTube videos and web sites blaming each other for being unreasonable during business negotiations.

Retransmission consent fees are a form of compensation either in cash — or some other non-cash deal — that video distributors pay for broadcasters’ programming.

Last year, a coalition of 14 entities that include the American Cable Association, Cablevision, Charter Communications, DIRECTV, Dish Network, Public Knowledge, The New America Foundation, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon petitioned the FCC to change the rules, which were first brought into being by the 1992 Cable Act.

The group wanted the FCC to allow distributors to carry the broadcasters’ signals on an interim basis during negotiations, even if contracts have expired.

They also wanted the FCC to step in to arbitrate if two negotiating parties failed to arrive at a new agreement, which is re-negotiated every three years.

The petitioners argued that these steps would prevent the showdowns that can lead to service interruptions for consumers at critical television viewing moments, such as the Oscars and during sporting events.

Most of the parties that had become involved in the process applauded the commission’s proposals on Thursday.

“NAB is pleased the FCC correctly concluded that the marketplace is best equipped to negotiate private business contracts, and that it lacks authority to impose the heavy-handed government tools that pay-TV providers desire,” said Gordon Smith, the National Association of Broadcasters’ president and CEO in a statement.

“In more than 99 out of 100 retransmission consent negotiations, agreements are concluded successfully and invisibly. Broadcasters will continue working earnestly to ensure that consumers receive no TV service disruptions, mindful that even the threat of injecting government into a market-based process only incentivizes pay TV providers to game the process.”

New York-based Cablevision responded to the FCC’s Thursday decision by saying that it wants the commission to enact more specific rules governing the terms of negotiations between video distributors and broadcasters.

Public Knowledge, one of the public interest groups that had petitioned the FCC to change the rules last year, disagreed with the commission’s Thursday decision.

“We hope that at some point the Commission will come to realize it has the statutory authority to relieve the consumer distress at being caught in the middle of the disputes, said Harold Feld, the group’s legal director. “We will make that point again to the Commission, and hope it will take a more active role than it has in the past in bringing some order to the retransmission chaos.”

For a detailed discussion about the retransmission consent debate, and to see what ideas have been floated in the policy community about how the law might change, check out theIntellectual Property Breakfast Club’s June discussion panel on the subject.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Big Tech

Tech Policy Conference Panelists Tackle Challenges of Federal Privacy, Antitrust Laws

Academics were concerned about an anti-preference bill, while one state AG said he’s ‘pragmatic’ about a federal privacy law.

Published

on

Screenshot of Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser at the TPI Aspen Forum on Monday

ASPEN, Colorado, August 15, 2022 – Academics expressed concern Monday about antitrust legislation before Congress that would prevent companies from preferencing their own products on their platforms, arguing the legislation targets only certain companies and hasn’t shown it would benefit consumers.

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act, S.2992, which is currently before the Senate and aims to ban discrimination against third-party products on the host platform, defines targeted companies by their value – which effectively narrows the number of affected companies and makes it a problematic piece of legislation, according to some academics.

“I think it’s very difficult to single out specific companies…for specific rules,” Judy Chevalier, a professor of finance and economics at Yale University, said at the TPI Aspen Forum on Monday.

“It’s hard to imagine what is the principle whereby private label band aids are a bad idea at Amazon but they’re a good idea at Walmart,” she added. “The self-preferencing rule can be applied to Amazon in a way that I think can be interpreted to limit their ability to introduce and promote their private label products.

“It’s not very convincing that this behavior has thus far harmed consumers,” she continued. “So I think singling out particular companies in this broad brush way strikes me as problematic.”

Dennis Carlton, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago business school, said the legislation makes him “nervous” because of the impact on innovation of targeting certain industries over others.

“High tech industries are rapidly changing, and whenever we have regulation or try and have regulation of rapidly changing industries, it is just too hard for the regulators to keep track of what’s going on and they wind up causing delays in innovation,” Carlton said.

“Innovation is one of the strongest ways we improve our products and our standard of living. It makes me very nervous when you target specifically an industry or…make exceptions to other industries without…economic criteria or any attempt to show that this would produce a benefit not a harm. So it makes me nervous these proposals.”

Similar sentiments were expressed on a Broadband Breakfast panel in March, in which an association representing large technology companies blasted the legislation introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., as unfairly targeting certain online platforms and excluding large retailers.

“The bill very carefully picks winners and losers,” said Arthur Sidney, vice president of public policy at Computer and Communications Industry Association, which includes members like Amazon, Google, and Facebook.

State AGs weigh in on privacy legislation

On a separate panel at the Forum on Monday, the state attorneys general of Colorado and Nebraska discussed the state of privacy legislation – both in their own state and at the federal level.

Introduced in June, the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (H.R. 8152) cleared the House Energy and Commerce Committee last month for House floor votes. The proposed bill would provide Americans protections against discriminatory use of their data, require covered entities to minimize the data they collect, and prevent customers from needing to pay for privacy.

Despite his state having passed comprehensive privacy laws that are considered leading and a model by some, Colorado AG Phil Weiser said he’s “pragmatic” about a federal law.

“If a federal law is as good and strong as what we worked on in Colorado, I am comfortable with that law preempting Colorado, provided state AGs have the authority to enforce federal law,” he said. “It’s important to me to have that model because, you could imagine a world where the feds are not engaged in active enforcement, then the states can pick up that slack.”

Before the introduction of the legislation, some experts were concerned that having a number of different state privacy laws would harm smaller companies operating across multiple states. One lawyer noted that the longer companies have to wait for a uniform federal law, the greater the burden of compliance on them.

In fact, two Democratic California reps – Anna Eshoo and Nanette Barragan – were concerned that such a federal law would override their own state’s law. Eshoo proposed a provision, which was not included during a markup of the bill, that would have allowed states to add privacy provisions on top of the federal baseline.

“If you do have multiple standards,” Weiser said, “we have to solve for the problem, which is a problem right now of what I call interoperability or harmonization: How do we make sure that different state laws enable compliance across them as opposed to putting businesses in, to me, the unacceptable position of saying, ‘I can either comply with Colorado’s law or California’s law, but not both.’?”

Having had a privacy proposal in its legislature that did not pass, Doug Peterson, AG for Nebraska, said the state is taking a wait-and-see approach, including observing how states, including Colorado, fare with their own laws.

Continue Reading

Social Media

Americans Should Look to Filtration Software to Block Harmful Content from View, Event Hears

One professor said it is the only way to solve the harmful content problem without encroaching on free speech rights.

Published

on

Photo of Adam Neufeld of Anti-Defamation League, Steve Delbianco of NetChoice, Barak Richman of Duke University, Shannon McGregor of University of North Carolina (left to right)

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2022 – Researchers at an Internet Governance Forum event Thursday recommended the use of third-party software that filters out harmful content on the internet, in an effort to combat what they say are social media algorithms that feed them content they don’t want to see.

Users of social media sites often don’t know what algorithms are filtering the information they consume, said Steve DelBianco, CEO of NetChoice, a trade association that represents the technology industry. Most algorithms function to maximize user engagement by manipulating their emotions, which is particularly worrisome, he said.

But third-party software, such as Sightengine and Amazon’s Rekognition – which moderate what users see by bypassing images and videos that the user selects as objectionable – could act in place of other solutions to tackle disinformation and hate speech, said Barak Richman, professor of law and business at Duke University.

Richman argued that this “middleware technology” is the only way to solve this universal problem without encroaching on free speech rights. He suggested Americans in these technologies – that would be supported by popular platforms including Facebook, Google, and TikTok – to create the buffer between harmful algorithms and the user.

Such technologies already exist in limited applications that offer less personalization and accuracy in filtering, said Richman. But the market demand needs to increase to support innovation and expansion in this area.

Americans across party lines believe that there is a problem with disinformation and hate speech, but disagree on the solution, added fellow panelist Shannon McGregor, senior researcher at the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life at the University of North Carolina.

The conversation comes as debate continues regarding Section 230, a provision in the Communications Decency Act that protects technology platforms from being liable for content their users post. Some say Section 230 only protects “neutral platforms,” while others claim it allows powerful companies to ignore user harm. Experts in the space disagree on the responsibility of tech companies to moderate content on their platforms.

Continue Reading

Big Tech

Surveillance Capitalism a Symptom of Web-Dependent Companies, Not Ownership

Former Google executive Richard Whitt critiqued Ben Tarnoff’s argument in ‘Internet for the People’ during Gigabit Libraries discussion.

Published

on

Photo of Ben Tarnoff, co-founder of magazine Logic and the author of “Internet for the People”

July 15, 2022 – A former Google executive  pushed back against a claim that the privatization of broadband infrastructure has created the world’s current data and privacy concerns, instead suggesting that it’s the companies that rely on the web that have helped fuel the problem.

Richard Whitt, president of technology non-profit GLIA Foundation and former employee of Google, argued that while the World Wide Web is rife with problems, the internet infrastructure underlying the web remains fundamentally sound.

Whitt was responding to claims made by Ben Tarnoff, a journalist and founder of Logic Magazine, at the Libraries in Response event on July 8. Tarnoff argued – as he does in his recent book, “Internet for the People” – that the privatization of broadband infrastructure in the 1990s has allowed the use and commodification of personal data for profit to flourish (known as surveillance capitalism).

The discussion took place during the Gigabit Libraries Network’s series “Libraries in Response.” The session was titled “If the Internet is Broken, How Can Libraries Help Fix it?”

Privatization, Tarnoff claims, has raised such issues as polarization of ideologies and the “annihilation of our privacy.” As a result, he said, the American people are losing trust in tech companies that “rule the internet.”

Whitt responded that the internet is working well based on the protocols, standardized rules for routing and addressing packets of data to travel across networks, derived at the onset of the internet.

The World Wide Web, a system built on the internet to allow communication using easy-to-understand graphical user interfaces, allowed for browsers and other applications to emerge, which have since perpetuated surveillance capitalism into the governing approach of the web that it is today, said Whitt, suggesting it’s not ownership of the hard infrastructure that’s the problem.

The advertising market that encourages surveillance extraction, analysis and manipulation is, and will continue to be, profitable, Whitt continued.

The discussion follows a Pew Research Center study that found that only half of Americans believe tech companies have a positive effect in 2019 compared to a seventy-one percent in 2015.

Continue Reading

Recent

Signup for Broadband Breakfast

Get twice-weekly Breakfast Media news alerts.
* = required field

Trending