NRB Weighs in on FCC Independent Video Programming Proceeding

Earlier this year the FCC put out a request for information about challenges independent programmers might have in getting carriage on video platforms. The agency said the Notice of Inquiry (NOI) was intended “to begin a conversation on the state of independent and diverse programming.”

In comments filed this week at the FCC, NRB added its voice to those who asserted that there are, indeed, difficulties for independent programmers in relation to multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs). Representatives of cable companies largely denied any problem, but NRB pointed out that experiences relayed by NRBTV, INSP, and others in this proceeding indicated otherwise. NRB said, “Without extensive resources or leverage, some such programmers have felt marginalized – effectively shut out from opportunities to gain access to MVPDs and, therefore, the ability to serve viewers who rely on those MVPDs.”

NRB’s comments highlighted the need for faith and family-friendly programming on major pay-TV platforms, particularly in light of repeated poll results and “the increasing quantity and intensity of violent, sexual, and profane programming being pushed by these empires in prime time.” The association hoped the conversation spurred by this NOI would help the media conglomerates to understand the need for the offerings of religious channels. Also, given the growing capacity for channels (see an NRB-commissioned technical study on this matter here) and the simultaneous constriction of major platforms through corporate consolidation, NRB highlighted for special consideration NRBTV’s suggestion that, as a public interest obligation, the FCC set aside 4-7 percent of capacity for non-commercial educational (NCE) channels during merger reviews.

However, NRB was careful to warn against a new “heavy-handed” regulatory effort. Referencing the specter of the “Fairness Doctrine,” NRB concluded, “This NOI must not be permitted to sanction a move in the name of diversity towards a subjective government-favored content regime or so-called ‘fairness’ censorship on video programmers or any other form of electronic media.”

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: April 22, 2016

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