Pro­posal aims to loosen pay- TV com­pa­nies’ grip on set- top boxes

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Dow Jones Newswires

The Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion saidWed­nes­day itwill vote Feb. 18 on a pro­posal to bring more com­pe­ti­tion to the lu­cra­tive mar­ket for tele­vi­sion set- top boxes, amove that in­stantly set off a pitched political bat­tle.

In a state­ment out­lin­ing the plan, the FCC em­pha­sized that the pro­posal would cre­ate more choices for con­sumers, with the aim of low­er­ing prices and giv­ing view­ers more ac­cess to In­ter­net pro­gram­ming, par­tic­u­larly pro­grams fo­cused on mi­nori­ties or fea­tur­ing in­de­pen­dent con­tent.

Cur­rently, the 99 per­cent of pay- TV sub­scribers lease set- top boxes from their ca­ble or satel­lite providers, the FCC noted. Th­ese pay- TV providers tend to over­charge, crit­ics say, and to fa­vor their own con­tent.

The pro­posal, the FCC said, “will let in­no­va­tors cre­ate and then let con­sumers choose.”

The plan, ad­vo­cated by FCC Chair­manTomWheeler, would foster com­pe­ti­tion by re­quir­ing more open stan­dards, al­low­ing in­de­pen­dent de­vice mak­ers to ob­tain pay- TV­con­tent and chan­nel list­ings.

But even be­fore the FCChad of­fi­cially rolled out its plan, ca­ble and satel­lite in­dus­try ad­vo­cates were an­nounc­ing a new­coali­tion of more than 40 firms and groups that will op­pose it.

The group, dubbed the Fu­ture of TV Coali­tion, said its mem­bers “are united in the be­lief that in­no­va­tion and com­pe­ti­tion should drive the cre­ative mar­ket­place, not govern­ment man­dates.”

The FCC will vote Feb. 18 on whether to move for­ward­with Wheeler’s plan to de­velop the new rules. The vote prob­a­bly will be fol­lowed by ex­ten­sive pub­lic com­ments and fren­zied lob­by­ing.

Ca­ble firms face a po­ten­tial loss of bil­lions of dol­lars in rental fees for the cur­rent set- top boxes. They al­soworry that the plan could dis­rupt var­i­ous aspects of their busi­ness, in­clud­ing ad­ver­tis­ing agree­ments and chan­nel as­sign­ments.

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