Until last week, a proposal by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate pay TV set-top boxes had several Member of Congress and TV industry leaders concerned. Announced this past February, the proposal threatened to rip up programmers' copyrights and harm their ability to thrive in the video market.
With this proposal, the Commission was allowing large tech companies to take video content from programmers without paying for it and redistributing it over their own devices. Such an intervention into the marketplace would especially put small minority programmers at a disadvantage.
But last week, there was a glimmer of hope. During a Congressional hearing, two Commissioners publicly agreed that the February proposal had major problems. Among its crucial flaws, said Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, is its lack of adequate copyright protection. Fellow Democrat Mignon Clyburn added that these protections "must be in place" before any rules are finalized.
The Commissioners' public hesitation is good news for strengthening media diversity. It also caps nearly a year of progressively louder complaints from across the African-American community. Among the leaders was Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D-NY), who brought together 53 Members of Congress on this issue earlier this year. As the FCC's proposal was taking shape, she and her colleagues warned of "irreparable harm to independent and minority programmers" who would see their programming relegated "to the bottom of the pile."
As this debate wore on, more and more minority leaders, especially in media, began recognizing the stakes for our community. The CEO of Revolt Media, Keith Clinkscales, warned that the FCC's proposal would "drive up costs and eliminate the need for minority programming."
With complaints streaming in from over 200 Members of Congress and several people from the video industry and minority communities, it's good to see the FCC rethink its proposal.
Even better, the TV industry recently put forward a proposal that would protect programmers' content while providing new choices for consumers. Under this proposal, programmers could provide apps to set-top box manufacturers and streaming services. Furthermore, consumers would be able to access these apps on any device that they want.
What took place at last week's hearing shows a lot of promise for the future of minority programmers and the video marketplace overall. The FCC should move forward with a proposal that reflects that framework outlined by industry leaders. It's the best way to ensure minority programmers can continue to grow their businesses and create new quality shows for consumers.