Hollywood Reacts to FCC Decision to Delay Changes to Cable Set-Top Boxes

Wrong outcome could have “devastating effects on the rights and livelihoods of the creators of film and television,” the DGA says

Chris Dodd
MPAA chairman Chris Dodd (Getty Images)

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) pushed back a vote on Thursday over a plan to require cable operators to offer their content on devices other than a cable box.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Directors Guild of America (DGA) have voiced their support for the delayed vote, both raising concerns over the rights of television and film creators.

The set-top box proposal was pushed back after federal regulators failed to reach a consensus over the exact details of the plan.

The aim of the proposal is to invite more competition to the industry and offer more freedom and flexibility for consumers who pay, on average, more than $200 yearly in cable box fees.

The FCC still plans to hold a future vote. The delay came after commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel raised worries over copyright infringement that TV programmers could potentially face, saying in a congressional hearing this month that the FCC may be overstepping its bounds by enforcing such a plan.

“We are still working to resolve the remaining technical and legal issues and we are committed to unlocking the set-top box for consumers across this country,” Rosenworcel said in a joint statement along with two other Democratic commissioners on Thursday.

The MPAA and DGA swiftly expressed relief over the FCC’s decision:

“The MPAA is pleased that the FCC is taking more time, and we hope they use it to ensure any set-top box proposal remains consistent with copyright policy and avoids harming creators,” said MPAA Chairman and CEO Senator Chris Dodd, who emphasized that his organization, along with “virtually the entire creative community” is “standing up for copyright and the rights of creators.”

“We support the FCC’s goal of promoting set-top box competition, but we continue to urge the Commission to forge a path that does not undermine the creative economy,” Dodd continued. “Copyright employs more than 5.5 million U.S. workers and generates over $1 trillion in economic value – incentivizing innovation and investment in creative works enjoyed by millions around the world.”

A statement issued by the DGA on Thursday echoed Dodd’s thoughts: “The Directors Guild of America was pleased to learn that the FCC has decided to delay consideration of the set-top box proposal. Although supportive of providing consumers free choice, the DGA has vigorously expressed its concerns regarding the proposal and its potentially devastating effects on the rights and livelihoods of the creators of film and television. It is our hope that the FCC has heard the DGA and other voices and that they will craft a proposal, released for public comment in advance of any vote, that protects copyright, privacy, and the essential revenue streams that allow for the creation of entertainment programs enjoyed around the world.”