Public Knowledge Welcomes Bill to Promote Competition, Lower Prices in Video Marketplace

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Yesterday, Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Steve Scalise (R-LA) introduced the “Modern Television Act” to promote competition and lower prices in the video marketplace by promoting privately-negotiated copyright.

The following can be attributed to John Bergmayer, Legal Director at Public Knowledge:

“This bill has the right approach: Instead of continuing to tweak the current cumbersome and duplicative system of compulsory copyright licenses, with broadcaster retransmission consent negotiations layered on top, it would shift the video marketplace to one based purely on privately-negotiated copyright. At the same time, it would eliminate a number of protectionist rules, such as network nonduplication, that have outlived any usefulness they may once have had.

“This approach would benefit new video services, including online video services, by eliminating the current two-tier system that treats cable and satellite TV providers (known as multi-channel video programming distributors, or MVPDs) one way, and non-MVPD video services such as online video providers another way, but without eliminating all of the consumer protections available under the current law. A radically simplified system for content negotiations, coupled with increased competition, could bring lower prices and better service to viewers.

“There are some areas where the bill could be strengthened. For example, the provisions concerning interim carriage and arbitration should apply to MVPD negotiations with any content provider, not just with broadcasters -- especially since, under this bill, some content negotiations may move away from broadcasters entirely. That said, the added protections for local programming produced by broadcasters themselves are certainly welcome, as is the prohibition on anti-competitive joint negotiations, where competing broadcasters team up to increase their leverage and drive up programming costs.

“Additionally, while Congress can always revisit these issues, in the meantime the FCC and state and local authorities should maintain authority to protect consumers from unfair billing practices and unreasonable rates. Leased access rules, as well, continue to be a valuable way for some programmers to reach an audience.

“However, we understand that compromise is a part of getting bipartisan agreement on a bill, and we commend Congresswoman Eshoo and Congressman Scalise for working together on a bill that advances the conversation on video marketplace regulation and which takes an overall approach that, if enacted, would benefit consumers and promote competition and lower prices.”

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