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FCC Chairman Blames Time Warner Cable For Dodgers TV Impasse

FCC Chairman Blames Time Warner Cable For Dodgers TV ImpasseFCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has had it with the disputes that have kept most Los Angeles area pay TV customers from seeing the Dodgers — whose local TV rights are controlled by Time Warner Cable‘s SportsNet LA. “Inaction is no longer acceptable,” Wheeler says in a tough letter today to TWC chief Rob Marcus. “I strongly urge you to end the impasses that are depriving Los Angeles consumers from being able Time Warner Cable logoto watch their home baseball team.” He adds that the FCC “intends to monitor this situation closely in order to determine whether intervention is appropriate and necessary.”

Announced early last year, SportsNet LA was born out of the 25-year, multibillion-dollar deal Time Warner Cable inked with the Dodgers for broadcast rights. Sources say TWC is seeking $4-$5 per subscriber per month for channel in the first year of the contract. Roughly 70% of LA remains without SportsNet including DirecTV, which has close to a 30% share of the market with more than 1.2 million subs.

Related: Time Warner Cable, DirecTV In Stalemate Over Dodgers Channel

Wheeler specifically wants TWC to provide, within 10 days, an explanation of the arbitration process that it has proposed, how that could resolve the matter, and other steps the cable company can take to fix things if arbitration fails.  In addition, he wants FCC logounredacted copies of contracts or term sheets in SportsNet’s deal with TWC, and proposals to other pay TV distributors.

Related: LA Mayor Makes Plea For Resolution To Dodgers TV Dispute

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FCC Lacks Information It Needs To Judge TV Station Co-op Agreements: Report

By | Monday July 28, 2014 @ 3:47pm PDT

FCC Lacks Information It Needs To Judge TV Station Co-op Agreements: ReportThe Government Accountability Office dinged the FCC in report released today for failing to collect enough information to judge TV station joint-operation deals. The FCC wants to tighten restrictions to keep stations from combining ad sales or newsgathering resources. Critics of the deals say that broadcasters often use them to do an end-run around rules that bar a company from owning multiple stations in a market, thereby weakening competition and narrowing the range of local voices. Station owners counter that deals help by making it possible for financially weak stations to stay in business.

But the FCC has “not collected data or completed a review to understand how broadcaster agreements are being used and the potential impacts with respect to its media ownership rules and the corresponding policy goals of competition, localism, and diversity,” the GAO says. Read More »

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Rupert Murdoch Tweets: He Won’t Bid For Tribune

By | Friday July 18, 2014 @ 7:22am PDT

Rupert Murdoch Tweets: He Won’t Bid For TribuneLooks like Rupert Murdoch can’t acquire everything he wants. “Sorry can’t buy Trib group or LA Times — cross-ownership laws from another age still in place,” he tweeted overnight.  He salivated over Tribune‘s papers which include the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, as well as the Los Angeles Times. The parent company has wanted to sell them, and now plans to spin them off in a separate entity that will be publicly traded beginning August 4.

Murdoch still has plenty to keep him busy: Fox disclosed this week that it made an $80B offer for Time Warner, which the company rejected. And News Corp — Murdoch’s publishing company — is eyeing Time Inc, the publishing company that Time Warner just spun off. Read More »

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Copyright Office Rejects Aereo’s Request To Be Classified As A Cable Company

By | Thursday July 17, 2014 @ 7:37am PDT

Copyright Office Rejects Aereo’s Request To Be Classified As A Cable CompanyThis is a setback for Aereo‘s effort to carry broadcasters’ programming for relatively low fees. The U.S. Copyright Office says it “does not believe Aereo qualifies” for a designation as a cable service, which would enable the streaming service to have what’s known as a compulsory license to offer broadcast signals with fees set by the government. Internet transmissions of over-the-air TV “fall outside the scope” of the copyright rules that apply to cable companies; they just apply to services “regulated as cable systems by the FCC,” the arm of the Library of Congress said in a letter sent to Aereo yesterday.

Last month the U.S. Supreme Court said that Aereo can’t stream broadcast signals without payment because it seemed to resemble a cable distributor — which would be legally bound to pay to retransmit local TV stations. Even so, the Copyright Office says that “We do not see anything in the Supreme Court’s recent decision…that would alter” its view that the rules just apply to companies that the FCC deems to be cable systems. That could backfire on Aereo: FCC-designated cable companies are governed by communications laws that require them to negotiate fees directly with broadcasters. Read More »

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WGA Makes Last FCC Pitch On Latest Net Neutrality Rules

By | Wednesday July 16, 2014 @ 7:13pm PDT

WGA Makes Last FCC Pitch On Latest Net Neutrality RulesWarning that Internet video distribution could, like cable television, become “dominated by a few vertically-integrated conglomerates,” the WGA West made its last pitch to the FCC today for proposals to protect Internet neutrality. The FCC is expected to hand down its new policy on the issue within a few weeks, following the close today of a public-comment period on the latest proposal to regulate Internet transmission of video and other data.
In January, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. struck down parts of the FCC’s 2010 rules, leading to a new round of guidelines, including a controversial provision that would say Internet Service Providers “may not act in a commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet.”
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DeadlineNow: The FCC Is Listening On Net Neutrality Issue (Video)

By | Tuesday July 15, 2014 @ 12:40pm PDT
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Net Neutrality Debate In High Gear

Deadline's David Lieberman breaks down why the surge of public comments ahead of the FCC's deadline today is more important than usual as the commission remains split on the issue of how to regulate the Internet.

Related: FCC Extends Net Neutrality Comment Period After “Overwhelming Surge” Of Responses

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FCC Extends Net Neutrality Comment Period After “Overwhelming Surge” Of Responses Crash Its Site

By | Tuesday July 15, 2014 @ 11:03am PDT

FCC Extends Net Neutrality Comment Period After “Overwhelming Surge” Of Responses Crash Its SiteToday was supposed to be the deadline for people to respond to the FCC’s proposed open Internet rules — the ones that HBO’s John Oliver famously lambasted last month. But the agency extended the comment period to midnight on Friday after “an overwhelming surge in traffic on our website” made it “difficult for many people to file comments” on the FCC’s electronic filing system, it says today. “Please be assured that the Commission is aware of these issues and is committed to making sure that everyone trying to submit comments will have their views entered into the record,” the agency says, adding that people also can contribute to the public record by emailing their views to

The public response could be unusually important to the proceedings because the commission itself is so divided on a key question: Should it reclassify the Internet as a kind of telecom service, which the FCC can clearly regulate, or keep it defined as an information service, which requires the agency to take a lighter touch? In January, the U.S. Court of Appeals in DC remanded the net neutrality rules the FCC adopted in 2010 saying that they overreached the agency’s authority over an information service. Two of the Democratic commissioners are open to reclassifying the Internet. But the two GOP members strongly oppose that. Chairman Tom Wheeler steered a middle course. He proposed extensive changes without reclassifying the Web — but said that he considers it an option.

Open Internet advocates say that … Read More »

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FCC Creates Timetable For Closed Captioning In TV Clips That Run Online

By | Friday July 11, 2014 @ 1:40pm PDT

FCC Creates Timetable For Closed Captioning In TV Clips That Run OnlineWeb videos taken from shows that aired on TV with closed captioning also will have to offer the text option online, the FCC ruled today. “Americans living with intellectual and physical disabilities stand to benefit the most from broadband-enabled technologies but are among the least connected segments of our society,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says.

Congress authorized the rule making in the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, which is designed to promote equal access to all forms of programming. In 2012 the FCC required closed captioning in full-length TV shows offered online but not in clips. Read More »

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FCC Starts Clock On Comcast’s Deals With Time Warner Cable And Charter

By | Thursday July 10, 2014 @ 12:50pm PDT

FCC Starts Clock On Comcast’s Deals With Time Warner Cable And CharterAnd they’re off…The FCC officially started its informal 180-day clock to review Comcast‘s planned $42B acquisition of Time Warner Cable, and its side deals to transfer systems to Charter Communications and a new spinoff entity temporarily (I hope) called Spinco. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and his four fellow commissioners set an August 25 deadline for comments and petitions to deny the applications. Parties must respond by September 23, and replies to those comments are due October 8. Although the FCC wants to reach a decision within 180 days, regulators often stop the clock if they need additional time to sort through issues on major deals. Read More »

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DeadlineNow: FCC Signals Hard Look At Proposed Mega-Mergers (Video)

By | Tuesday July 8, 2014 @ 12:58pm PDT
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FCC Taps Economist Who Opposed Comcast's Acquisition Of NBCUniversal To Oversee Proposed Mega-Mergers

Deadline's David Lieberman looks at the FCC's choice to oversee the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable and AT&T-DirecTV mergers.

FCC Picks Critic Of Comcast’s NBCU Acquisition To Review Its Time Warner Cable Deal

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FCC Picks Critic Of Comcast’s NBCU Acquisition To Review Its Time Warner Cable Deal

By | Monday July 7, 2014 @ 12:21pm PDT

FCC Picks Critic Of Comcast’s NBCU Acquisition To Review Its Time Warner Cable DealComcast needs no introduction to the economist who the FCC tapped today to help regulators sort through the cable giant’s plan to buy Time Warner Cable, and AT&T’s for DirecTV: Former FCC Chief Economist William Rogerson, now a professor at Northwestern University, was an important opponent of Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal. He wrote at least three reports in 2010 that challenged Comcast’s economic analysis and concluded that the deal would hurt consumers. One, which he wrote on behalf of the American Cable Association, estimated that the reduction in competition from a combined Comcast-NBCU likely would lead pay TV customers to pay an additional $316.8M a year. That meant “the harm of this transaction is more than ten times as large as the benefit,” he said at the time.
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FCC Study Finds Internet Providers Often Don’t Deliver The Speeds They Advertise

By | Wednesday June 18, 2014 @ 11:06am PDT

FCC Study Finds Internet Providers Often Don’t Deliver The Speeds They AdvertiseConsumers of DSL services have the most reason to complain according to data in the FCC’s fourth Measuring Broadband America report out today. The study says that during the evening when usage is highest, 95% of Verizon DSL customers received an average of 42% of the company’s advertised download speed — the worst performance among the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) studied. The FCC plans to send letters to the CEOs of Verizon as well as Centurylink, Frontier DSL, and Windstream to find out how they plan to improve their performance. “Consumers deserve to get what they pay for,” Chairman Tom Wheeler says. “While it’s encouraging to see that in the past these reports have encouraged providers to improve their services, I’m concerned that some providers are failing to deliver consistent speeds to consumers that are commensurate to their advertised speeds.”

Ten of the 14 ISPs studied slightly improved their performance since last year’s report while others showed little change. Still, it notes, about a third only offered 60% or more of their advertised speeds 80% of the time to 80% of their customers. “This is a metric that we expect ISPs to improve upon over the course of the next year,” the study says.

Among the largest ISPs, 95% of Comcast customers received 98% of its advertised download speeds , with Time Warner Cable, Charter and Cox at at 93%. AT&T trailed with 62%. But some ISPs exceeded their advertised speeds: Verizon Fiber delivered 101% and Cablevision had 117%.

Later today the FCC will release data about … Read More »

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FCC To Investigate Internet Peering Disputes

By | Friday June 13, 2014 @ 11:50am PDT

Tom Wheeler 2This sounds like encouraging news for Netflix and others who say that net neutrality policy should cover deals involving connections to Internet providers such as Comcast and Verizon – not just their last-mile transmissions to consumers’ homes. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler says today that he has directed staff to “obtain the information we need to understand precisely what is happening in order to understand whether consumers are being harmed.” The agency has already received copies of Netflix’s deals with Comcast and Verizon and is looking for others. “To be clear, what we are doing right now is collecting information, not regulating. We are looking under the hood. Consumers want transparency. They want answers. And so do I.”

Related: The ABCs Of Net Neutrality

Netflix has said that the large ISPs have effectively held it hostage by charging high fees for the bandwidth needed to transmit video without a lot of delays and buffering. Internet providers say that Netflix wants to hog their bandwidth without paying. Read More »

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The ABCs Of Net Neutrality: Debate Goes Mainstream As Advocates Clash Over Web Reclassification

By | Friday June 6, 2014 @ 12:31pm PDT

John Oliver Net Neutrality FCCWhen’s the last time a television comic galvanized a mass audience with material based on an FCC vote about a complicated collection of tech regulations? Never, I’d guess. But it happened this week when John Oliver served up a routine about net neutrality on his topical HBO show Last Week Tonight. Viewers responded to his call to flood the agency with comments on the subject, which likely contributed — if it didn’t cause — a temporary crash of the FCC’s servers. fcc1__130401234319-200x182In any case, it highlighted the broad concern about net neutrality: The FCC has recently received more than 64,400 comments and 301,000 emails on the subject, Chairman Tom Wheeler tweeeted after Oliver’s show, good naturedly urging advocates to “Keep ‘em coming.”

He won’t have to worry. Net roots activists and opponents of government regulation are becoming energized by a recent FCC vote to prevent unfair Internet practices after a court early this year remanded net neutrality rules regulators passed in 2010. Open Internet supporters say Wheeler and his colleagues’ effort didn’t go far enough. Others warn the FCC not to mess with the Web’s still-developing economic ecosystem.

Related: FCC Approves Net Neutrality Proposal

Here’s an overview of the issues, and the stakes:

netneutralityQ: What does net neutrality mean?
A: Generally speaking, net neutrality means that an Internet service provider (ISP) — such as cable or phone company — treats all content equally. For example, it doesn’t offer faster transmissions for Netflix videos than it does for those from Amazon Prime.

Q: Is this a widespread problem?
A: Not yet, but open Internet advocates say it could become one. They note that cable companies have a long history of using their gatekeeper power to favor channels that they own, and require others to make financial concessions in order to be carried or find a home at a low number on the dial (desirable) as opposed to a high one (undesirable).

Q: Why shouldn’t the Internet operate the same way? Isn’t that how markets work?
A: Net neutrality advocates say that the Internet is too important to the economy and democracy to let companies such as Comcast and Verizon effectively pick winners and losers. ISPs might favor big, established businesses over entrepreneurs, and mainstream opinions over dissenting ones. And there are too few alternatives: Cable companies dominate sales of the fastest speed wired service; the market share for telco DSL services is declining. AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint offer wireless broadband, but they don’t have enough airwave spectrum to affordably match cable’s speed. Read More »

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John Oliver Tells Charlie Rose He Did Not Crash FCC Website: Video

John Oliver FCC comments graphicHBO’s Last Week Tonight host John Oliver this morning told CBS This Morning that he did not not crash the FCC‘s website when his show did its “deep dive” story about the FCC and net neutrality last Sunday. “We didn’t crash their web site, Charlie — that’s a huge accusation,” Oliver told Charlie Rose after Rose reported that Oliver’s show had just that. “We merely pointed people to their website and told them why they should be angry about it, and they went in droves.” Watch here:

John Oliver Explains Net Neutrality: Video
DeadlineNow Morning Report: John Oliver Vs. FCC (Video)

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UPDATE: FCC Needs To Be Convinced John Oliver’s Call To Action On Net Neutrality Crashed Its Comments System (Video)

By | Tuesday June 3, 2014 @ 6:30pm PDT

UPDATED, 6:30 PM: An FCC rep today has been telling reporters it’s not clear if Monday’s disruption to its email comments system was caused by John Oliver‘s call to action. Only one way to find out — another Oliver call to action.

Related: John Oliver Explains Net Neutrality On HBO’s ‘Last Week Tonight’: Video

PREVIOUSLY: John Oliver’s call to action on the subject of net neutrality, on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, appears to have crashed the FCC’s comments system.


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DeadlineNow Morning Report: California Film & Tax Credit Lottery Delay, John Oliver Vs. FCC, Kristen Bell Heads For ‘Hair’ (Video)

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Morning Report, June 3 2014

Bomb scare delays annual California Film & Tax Credit Program lottery; John Oliver's plea to flood FCC website comments section over net neutrality crashes site; Kristen Bell to star in Hollywood Bowl production of rock musical 'Hair'. Dominic Patten reports.

California Production Tax Credit Lottery Suspended After Bomb Scare
John Oliver’s Net Neutrality Call To Action Crashes FCC Comments Section
Kristen Bell To Let The Sunshine In At Hollywood Bowl ‘Hair’

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NAB Asks Court To Block FCC Decision To Bar TV Station Joint Sales Agreements

NAB logoThe broadcast industry lobby group told the U.S. Court of Appeals in DC that the FCC had no basis for deciding in March to block a station from selling ads for others in the same market. As a result it allegedly was “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion” as well as illegal. The 3-2 party line vote on Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal was predicated on a view that many, if not most, of these deals violate the public interest. Joint Sales Agreements “have been used to skirt existing [media ownership] rules to create market power that stacks the deck against small companies seeking to enter the broadcast business,” Wheeler said. The Justice Department also said that its investigations “have revealed that these ‘sidecars’ often exercise little or no competitive independence from the other station.”

The problem, according to the National Association of Broadcasters, is that regulators never defined the public interest. The FCC should have done that in a congressionally mandated quadrennial review of ownership rules that was supposed to have taken place in 2010, but didn’t. A ”fact-based examination of today’s marketplace would show that FCC ownership restrictions against free and local broadcasters are outdated in a world of national pay TV giants,” EVP Dennis Wharton says. “These rules – some of which have not been altered since 1975 – place broadcasters at a competitive disadvantage as we strive to continue delivering news, entertainment and lifeline … Read More »

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Consumers Group, Public Interest Org Respond To AT&T-DirecTV Deal

By | Sunday May 18, 2014 @ 4:01pm PDT

AT&TdirecTV__130523212608Following Sunday’s unanimous board approval of AT&T‘s $48.5 billion deal to buy satcaster DirecTV, DC-based public interest group Public Knowledge and Consumers Union, the public policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, called for extensive analysis of the pact which is still subject to approval by DIRECTV shareholders and to review by the FCC, U.S. Department of Justice, some U.S. states and Latin American countries. The deal is expected to be made final within 12 months.

Related: AT&T Seals $48B+ Deal To Acquire DirecTV

Said Public Knowledge’s Senior Staff Attorney John Bergmayer:

“The industry needs more competition, not more mergers. The burden is on AT&T and DirecTV to show otherwise. We’ll have to analyze this carefully for potential harms both to the video programming and the wireless markets. The most obvious concern is that customers in U-Verse territories would lose a video competitor, though the transaction would have nationwide effects.

“Public Knowledge tends to view mergers with a skeptical eye. In this case, it will help to hear more definitive information about the companies’ plans. For example, does AT&T plan to frame this as allowing it to compete more effectively with Comcast? If so, that is yet another reason why policymakers should be skeptical of the pending Comcast/Time Warner Cable transaction. We also need to know more about whether AT&T plans to offer some kind of wireless/pay TV bundle, and what kinds of services it could offer in both U-Verse territories and nationwide. Policymakers will have to ask a lot of tough questions when looking at this deal.

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