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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 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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Cable Show: FCC Chairman Says “All Options” Are Open For Net Neutrality

By | Wednesday April 30, 2014 @ 10:16am PDT

Nomination Hearing Of Thomas Wheeler To Be Chairman Of The FCCTom Wheeler had a bracing message for attendees of the National Cable Show being held this week in LA: When it comes to his new rules for Net Neutrality — which consumer groups complained would allow the creation of a for-pay Internet fast lane — cable companies should “put away the party hats.” His open Internet rules designed to comply with court rulings that remanded the FCC’s previous ones “will be tough, will be enforceable, and will be in effect with dispatch.” What’s more, “all options on the table.” If Internet providers still tip the scales to favor certain services, then he would consider reclassifying the Web to make it a regulated common carrier service instead of largely unregulated information service. “I know in my bones how hard it is to start a company with innovative ideas. Now, as Chairman of the FCC, I do not intend to allow innovation to be strangled by the manipulation of the most important network of our time, the Internet.” He adds that cable companies should back off from their efforts to persuade states to bar municipalities from creating competitive broadband systems. The FCC “has the power — and I intend to exercise that power — to preempt state laws that ban competition from community broadband.”

If you have any interest in the subject, then you should check out the entire speech. Here it is: Read More »

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FCC Chairman Circulates Net Neutrality Proposal Barring “Commercially Unreasonable” Practices

By | Thursday April 24, 2014 @ 9:07am PDT

The term is key: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says in a blog post that the ability to bar “commercially unreasonable” practices empowers the agency — in a plan he will begin to circulate — to crack down on Internet service providers that discriminate against some content providers. Tom Wheeler 2But open Internet advocates fear it’s too squishy, and could allow ISPs to create tiers of service that enable some content providers (Netflix or HBO GO, perhaps) to pay for speedy transmissions. Wheeler hopes to “conclude this proceeding and have enforceable rules by the end of the year.” The plan he will begin to circulate will look at net neutrality violations on a case-by-case basis, an adjustment needed to meet the objections that the D.C. Court of Appeals raised in January when it remanded the FCC’s previous net neutrality rules. FCC Net NeutralityBut he vigorously objects to the “great deal of misinformation” that characterized his proposal as an effort to gut the principle of open Internet by allowing companies to pay for speedier service. His plan “would establish that behavior harmful to consumers or competition by limiting the openness of the Internet will not be permitted,” he says. The court said that the FCC could stop practices it deems not ” commercially reasonable” — and he says that his plan will “establish a high bar for what is ‘commercially reasonable.’” Read More »

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FCC Chairman Circulates Draft Rules For TV Spectrum Auction

By | Friday April 18, 2014 @ 9:30am PDT

Nomination Hearing Of Thomas Wheeler To Be Chairman Of The FCCThe financial and technological proposals are incredibly complicated, but they provide the kinds of details that broadcasters have wanted to see before they decide whether to let the federal government auction to broadband providers some of the airwaves now used for TV. The process being circulated by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler includes a reverse auction, fcc1__130401234319-200x182where station owners would indicate how much cash they want for their spectrum and can drop out if the bidding is too low. There’s also a forward auction, where wireless companies would raise their offers in successive rounds. When it’s all done, the FCC will repack the spectrum — making usage efficient by assigning new channels to the broadcasters who stay on the air. There’s also a plan to accommodate low-power TV, translators, and wireless microphones that will be affected by the changes. “Whether television broadcasters participate in the Incentive Auction will be purely voluntary, but participation in the Incentive Auction does not mean they have to leave the TV business,” Wheeler says in a blog post. “New channel-sharing technologies offer broadcasters a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an infusion of cash to expand their business model and explore new innovations, while continuing to provide their traditional services to consumers. We will ensure that broadcasters have all of the information they need to make informed business decisions … Read More »

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NAB Show: FCC Chairman Tells Broadcasters To Think Like Tech Disruptors

By | Tuesday April 8, 2014 @ 3:30pm PDT

Tom Wheeler gave as good as he’s gotten today when he addressed a potentially hostile audience of TV and radio station owners at the NAB Show in Las Vegas.Tom Wheeler 1 “Trust me. I get the skepticism,” he told the group which has been irked by his efforts to block local station cooperative agreements, among other things. “Here’s the former head of the cable AND the wireless industry at the NAB Show telling you he’s your friend….There is no more ridiculous metaphor.” But he assured the audience that now “I have the American people as my client.” And they would be best served if broadcasters think differently about their medium.

NABshow_logo“We are at an inflection point where broadcast licensees can move from being the disrupted, to being the disruptor,” much like Netflix, the FCC chairman says. Instead of just hitting up pay TV providers for retransmission fees, local stations can create vibrant local news and entertainment online services. “It can be the basis for a fixed and mobile-delivered cable-like service. You possess the two most important components of a successful digital strategy: compelling content – specifically, the most important content: local content – and the means to promote it. …For all the wonderful things the Internet has done, one place that it has yet to deliver on its promise is local content.” Net neutrality would ensure that these services are carried online. But “your window of opportunity won’t stay open forever,” he says, nothing that others including Yahoo and Verizon are preparing deals to offer competitive content. Read More »

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FCC Restricts TV Station Sidecar Deals, And Adds Spectrum For Wi-Fi

By | Monday March 31, 2014 @ 11:24am PDT

The National Association of Broadcasters is upset, but consumer groups are gleeful, after the FCC followed Chairman Tom Wheeler’s lead and approved orders that limit TV stations’ ability to jointly negotiate ad sales and retransmission consent deals. fcc1__130401234319-200x182In a 3-2 vote on party lines, commissioners said that a station that sells at least 15% of the ads for a would-be rival will be considered to own the station — which could run afoul of ownership caps. Broadcasters can get a waiver if they demonstrate that the arrangement serves the public, or doesn’t affect the smaller station’s programming. Companies have two years to either secure a waiver or unwind sidecar deals. In a separate, 5-0 vote the FCC barred joint retransmission consent negotiations involving two of the four highest-rated stations in a market. Wheeler says that the changes will promote competition and diversity. TV station collaborations represent “a growing end run” around the FCC’s ownership limits.

Former Commissioner Michael Copps, now with Common Cause, says that he hopes the vote “marks the long overdue start of a new era of public interest leadership.” Another FCC vet, former Chairman Michael Powell — now CEO of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association — also praised the retransmission consent rules saying that “such coordinated behavior harms consumers by artificially inflating the cost of watching over-the-air broadcast stations on cable systems.” But NAB’s Dennis Wharton says that the vote threatens the ability of “free and local TV stations to survive in a hyper-competitive world dominated by pay TV giants.” He adds that “the public interest will not be served by this arbitrary and capricious decision.” Read More »

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Leading Wall Street Fan Of TV Station Companies Downgrades Sector

By | Monday March 17, 2014 @ 5:44am PDT

This is a surprising change, but an unavoidable one, Wells Fargo Securities’ Marci Ryvicker says, as FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler begins to crack down on arrangements that enable rival stations in a market to collaborate on ad sales, programming, and retransmission consent negotiationsLocal TV stationMany consumer groups and the Justice Department say these cozy so-called “sidecar” deals diminish competition and local progamming, and effectively circumvent FCC caps on the number of stations a company can control in a market. The National Association of Broadcasters says the deals make programming more local and diverse. In any case, “NO pending [merger] deals with any sort of ‘shared’ arrangements will close until/unless they are restructured to exclude such stations and related loan guarantees,” Ryvicker says she was told by her sources in Washington. As a result, she decided it’s time to recommend that investors hold any TV station company stocks they own, but not buy additional shares. She says that she’s “frustrated” because she still likes “the underlying fundamentals of the business, as we see strong core and political advertising revenue trends, robust [free cash flow] generation, and a nice growth trajectory” for income from retransmission consent deals with pay TV distributors. But the growing antipathy to the shared services agreements “is likely to put pressure on trading multiples as well as lead to estimate reductions (especially for those with deals pending before the FCC),” Ryvicker says. “We really … Read More »

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Are Broadcasters Or The FCC To Blame For Problems With TV Localism And Diversity?

The FCC is hearing both views this week following Chairman Tom Wheeler‘s recent proposal to restrict local TV joint service arrangements. Nomination Hearing Of Thomas Wheeler To Be Chairman Of The FCCNational Association of Broadcasters CEO Gordon Smith came out swinging with a charge that the regulators are making it hard for broadcasters to promote localism and diversity — objectives called for in the Communications Act —  according to notes publicly filed today of his visit yesterday with Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. He says that Wheeler lacks solid evidence and “makes sweeping generalizations” that are “arbitrary and capricious” about the problems that arise when a station handles ad sales, programming, or retransmission consent negotiations for a rival in the same market. These collaborations “greatly foster localism and diversity,” Smith says. He says that Wheeler’s proposals “use a sledgehammer where a scalpel, if anything, is far more appropriate.” Smith also called it “manifestly unfair” to bar TV stations from collaborating when it “permits the cable industry to do so.” All in all, the NAB chief says, the FCC is “not doing everything it could to actually promote localism and diversity.”

Others are pressing regulators to hang tough. There’s already “ample record evidence” showing that station collaborations hurt the public, Andrew Jay Schwartzman and Angela Campbell of Georgetown Law School said in their visit with Clyburn yesterday. “If particular arrangements would serve the public interest … the Commission can and should craft … Read More »

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FCC Chairman Proposes Limits On Local TV Alliances For Retransmission Deals

By | Thursday March 6, 2014 @ 11:00am PST

UPDATE, 12:41 PM: Public interest groups like Chairman Tom Wheeler’s retransmission consent and TV station shared services agreement proposals better than I envisioned. Public Knowledge says the plans “will represent a meaningful attempt to rein in programming costs.” Free Press CEO Craig Aaron lauded the chairman’s “willingness to steer clear of the mistakes of FCC predecessors who turned a blind eye” to TV alliances and ownership limits. But National Association of Broadcasters CEO Gordon Smith says he’s “disappointed but not surprised” by the initiative. “The real loser will be local TV viewers, because this proposal will kill jobs, chill investment in broadcasting and reduce meaningful minority programming and ownership opportunities.”  

PREVIOUS, 11:00 AM: Chairman Tom Wheeler is sure to frustrate public interest groups with the timid proposals he’s offering as part of the FCC‘s quadrennial review of media ownership rules, which is already two years overdue.Tom Wheeler He wants to bar two or more of the four biggest stations in a market from jointly negotiating retransmission consent deals with pay TV providers. For other stations, he’d adopt a “rebuttable presumption” that the cost of joint negotiations for retrans deals outweighs the benefits and therefore should be deemed a “failure to negotiate in good faith.” But for the most part he’s just seeking comment on whether ownership limits are still needed, as he “tentatively concludes” that the FCC should keep its restrictions on cross-ownership of newspapers and TV stations in a market. The proposal also will ask for comments on whether the agency should eliminate restrictions on combos of newspapers and radio stations, and radio and TV.

Related: FCC Fines Viacom, ESPN, And NBCU $1.9M For Misuse Of Emergency Alert Sounds: Video

Read More »

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Will The FCC Allow AT&T To Go Ahead With Its “Sponsored Data” Plan?

“We’re ready to intervene,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said this week about the new AT&T plan that has raised the hackles of net neutrality advocates. Nomination Hearing Of Thomas Wheeler To Be Chairman Of The FCCBut that’s short of a full-fledged commitment to deal with an issue that media and entertainment companies will closely monitor. The wireless carrier told an audience at the International CES confab that it will begin to let content providers pick up the tab for some of their 4G transmissions. It’s “similar to 1-800 phone numbers or free shipping for Internet commerce,” AT&T says. In theory, that could range from a studio paying data costs for mobile device users to watch a movie trailer — to ESPN or Netflix helping people to watch their programming. The idea is “a win-win for customers and businesses,” says AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega. Net neutrality advocates counter that AT&T’s plan would give well-funded industry giants a huge advantage over challengers in an environment where companies would effectively have to pay in order to reach mobile device users. “In addition to being a ripoff for both consumers and content creators, AT&T’s plan erects a massive barrier in front of anyone hoping to be the next big thing online,” says Public Knowledge Acting Co-President Michael Weinberg. Read More »

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Deadline Big Media 62 – The Give Me 10 AMC Shares with My Popcorn Podcast

By | Friday December 6, 2013 @ 5:06pm PST

Deadline Big Media episode 62Listen to (and share) episode 62 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman. Deadline’s financial editor talks with host David Bloom about growing interest in some corners of Washington D.C. about crafting new communications policies for the Internet age; AMC’s best concession deal in decades with a stock deal for its customers; a report that suggests breaking up the pay-TV bundle would “devastate” consumers and the oligopoly that dominates the industry; and new government efforts to measure the economy that say the country’s creative industries generated $915 billion in 2011, and what that might mean for new policies for Hollywood.

Deadline Big Media podcast 62 (.MP3 version)
Deadline Big Media podcast 62 (.M4A version) Read More »

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FCC Chairman Delays TV Spectrum Auction To Mid-2015

By | Friday December 6, 2013 @ 11:59am PST

You’re hearing a big sigh of relief from broadcasters today. New FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a blog post that he wants to postpone the voluntary auction that will enable wireless broadband providers to use airwaves now controlled by TV stations. It originally was planned for 2014, but Wheeler says he believes fcc1__130401234319-200x182“we can conduct a successful auction in the middle of 2015.” It’s easy to imagine that his decision was influenced by the troubled web rollout for the Affordable Care Act. “I have often defined the complexity of this multi-part simultaneous [auction] process as being like a Rubik’s cube,” Wheeler says. “As part of our auction system development, we will check and recheck the auction software and system components against the auction requirements, and under a variety of scenarios replicating real life conditions. … Only when our software and systems are technically ready, user friendly, and thoroughly tested, will we start the auction.” Wheeler also has to make a controversial policy decision about whether the government should limit how much spectrum might go to wireless giants Verizon and AT&T. Read More »

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FCC Chairman Calls Web Regulation A “Non-Starter,” But With Exceptions

Tom Wheeler gave students at Ohio State University a lesson in political savvy today in his first policy speech since he became FCC chairman last month. His address alternately preached the virtues of small government, and public interest advocacy — especially on the controversial question of the FCC’s role in regulating the Web. Tom Wheeler“What the Internet does is an activity where policy makers must be judiciously prudent and should not be involved,” he says. But the longtime industry lawyer and former lobbyist left the FCC a lot of wiggle room to advance what he calls the “Network Compact” to promote communications accessibility, interconnection, and public safety and security. His idea of accessibility “means the ability of [Internet] users to access all lawful content on a network,” he says — adding that’s why the FCC “adopted enforceable rules to preserve the Open Internet.” The FCC needs to be the public’s representative in a transition to what he calls “the fourth network revolution” following the development of the printing press, railroads, and the telegraph. The Internet “is not a law-free zone. It depends upon standards of conduct. And it depends on the ability of the government to intervene in the event of aggravated circumstances.” Read More »

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FCC Chairman Tells Phone Companies To Unlock Wireless Devices

By | Thursday November 14, 2013 @ 2:22pm PST

This should temporarily quiet those who feared that Tom Wheeler would be in the pocket of the wireless phone industry, which he used to represent. The new FCC chairman sent a letter today to CTIA, the wireless industry’s trade group, saying that “enough time has passed” and it’s time for service providers to unlock their devices “voluntarily or for the FCC to regulate.” He wants a “full unlocking rights policy” to appear in the CTIA Consumer Code “before the December holiday season.” The goal is to clear the way for consumers to use any mobile phone or tablet with any service provider. FCC staff have been working with CTIA to develop a new policy. The letter says the two sides now disagree on one thing: whether service providers should notify customers when their devices are eligible for unlocking, or simply unlock them, without a fee. “Absent the consumer’s right to be informed about unlocking eligibility, any voluntary program would be a hollow shell,” Wheeler writes.

Related: FCC Relaxes Foreign Ownership Rules
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FCC Relaxes Foreign Ownership Rules

By | Thursday November 14, 2013 @ 9:52am PST

In new Chairman Tom Wheeler’s first open FCC meeting since his confirmation late last month, the commission today eased the rules on foreign ownership of broadcast stations. Dispensing with the old 25% cap, now overseas companies can invest more than that in American outlets. Of course, it isn’t an automatic process. In its vote Thursday, the commission said will assess on an individual basis each such investment. The change came as no real surprise: It was introduced in late October by then-Acting Chair Mignon Clyburn. Today, the change passed unanimously with all five commissioners voting for it. The new rule was widely supported by the likes of NAB to the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council, which had pushed for such easing.

FCC Chairman To Phone Companies: Unlock Wireless Devices

New Chairman Tom Wheeler Restructures FCC’s Leadership

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Tom Wheeler Restructures FCC’s Leadership After Being Sworn In As Chairman

By | Monday November 4, 2013 @ 8:01am PST

I’m stunned by some of the appointments Tom Wheeler just announced as part of his plan to “hit the ground running.” He snagged Public Knowledge co-founder and CEO Gigi Sohn — one of the smartest advocates in the public interest community — to be Special Counsel for External Affairs. (Public Knowledge says that VP Michael Weinberg and COO Brooke Hunter will become Acting Co-Presidents.) The corporate community also has a tested ally at the new FCC with Philip Verveer, a longtime communications and antitrust lawyer who’ll be Senior Counsel. Verveer and his wife, Melanne, are long-time pals of Bill and Hillary Clinton. “With critical work to be accomplished for the American people and the Internet becoming ever more important in the lives of consumers and businesses across the nation, this team provides an excellent mix of governmental, private-sector and public-interest expertise,” Wheeler says. “They will join the many talented and dedicated professionals of the FCC, as we work to continue serving the public interest during an era of great technological change.”

Here’s the full list of changes from the FCC: Read More »

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Tom Wheeler Confirmed As FCC Chairman By Senate

By | Tuesday October 29, 2013 @ 4:56pm PDT

Just hours after Sen. Ted Cruz pulled his hold on the nomination today, the Senate unanimously confirmed Tom Wheeler as the next chair of the FCC. The GOP senator from Texas had put a hold on the nomination under the premise he objected to Democrat Wheeler’s vague response to questions about whether the FCC should require TV stations and cable operators to disclose the identities of political advertisers. On Tuesday, Cruz said he’s met with Wheeler and discussed the issue to his satisfaction. Nonetheless, it was a confirmation a long time coming. President Obama picked the former cable and mobile phone industry lobbyist in May to replace Julius Genachowski as chairman. At the time Obama said he hoped for “a speedy confirmation process.” He didn’t get that wish but he did eventually get his guy. Read More »

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