Emerging Video Marketplace Iii

A. Cable a la Carte - Defined

  • "A la carte cable" television allows subscribers to select to which channels they would like to have access to. Currently, American cable companies sell large package deals, which result in subscribers paying for channels they don't view and/or want.
  • FCC was opposed to "cable a la carte" under former Chairman Michael Powell; however, former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin preferred subscriber-selected tiers and mixed bundles as opposed to pure bundling and bundled pricing; current commission has not dealt with this issue

B. Cable a la Carte - Price Discrimination

  • Argument for: Selectivity of content in digital age — subscribers should be able to choose based on selective information access that has been encouraged by digital technologies; possible savings for subscribers
  • Argument against: Reduced ad revenue as caused by decreased viewrship of some channels could lead to cable companies increasing prices on subscribers
  • Note. Tiering protects weakest stations
  • Question: While there is a public policy standard for must-carry rules, should there be a similar one for protecting public interest viewing rights?

C. Broadcast Flags / Digital Copyright
*Broadcast flags are data fragments attached to television programs that restrict consumers' ability to record them to hard disk (i.e. DVR / TiVo) and/or make copies. (Supported by TV networks, MPAA, consumer electronics devices)

  • The FCC created the "Broadcast Flag" rule in 2003 when it "ordered that all digital electronic devices include code to prevent redistribution of content from television over the Internet
  • Effect: The FCC’s 2003 mandate would force all future digital television (DTV) tuners to include "content protection" (aka DRM) technologies. All makers of HDTV receivers would be required to build their devices to watch for a "flag" embedded in programs by copyright holders.
  • ALA v. FCC (2005) - D.C. Cir. Court overturns FCC broadcast flag rule, holding that the FCC overstepped its jurisdiction
  • House Judiciary Committee hearings (2005/6) - did not result in statutory broadcast flag mandate
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