In January the FCC proposed rules to establish open standards for set-top boxes. The notice and comment period on those rules is nearing its end. As it is likely that the FCC will move forward with its planned deregulation, the groups in opposition are concentrating on shaping the rules to result in minimal disruption to the perceived benefits of the current system.
The Motion Picture Association of America and SAG-AFTRA issued a joint comment articulating their concerns, and in the process making it clear that when a regulatory body seeks to transform established practices, the devil is in the details.
The FCC intends to establish a body that will set open standards for three information streams: what programming is available, rights management and the actual delivery of the content. The MPAA/SAG-AFTRA comment asks such questions as whether a single body will be responsible to set the standards for all three streams, who will decide on the content of the streams and whether they qualify as “open,” and how will be standards body make its decisions and adjudicate disputes.
Underlying all this is a deeper concern that by loosening the control that the cable, satellite and telcos currently hold over content delivery, they, and the content owners, will also sacrifice some of their ability to control piracy and monetization of content.
The shift to over-the-top program delivery may be inevitable, and will surely be welcomed by consumers, but the concerns raised by MPAA/SAG-AFTRA (and by the American Cable Association in its own comment) reflect legitimate reservations that the FCC should take into account to insure a fair and orderly transition.