In recent weeks we’ve highlighted a destructive new initiative by the Obama Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to impose a one-size-fits-all regulation forcing cable TV set-top boxes to become artificially compatible with third-party devices. Translation: in the ever-evolving home entertainment market, where cable companies themselves are already moving from traditional cable boxes toward devices owned by individual consumers, the FCC remains mired in a 1990s mindset and wants to regulate accordingly. The FCC’s inexplicable proposal would freeze in place a technological state that is already outdated.
Check that. Perhaps the FCC’s behavior isn’t so inexplicable at all.
This morning, The Wall Street Journal editorial board highlights many of the concerns that we and others address, but notes in “Government by Google” that crony capitalism constitutes the underlying foundation of the initiative:
The Federal Communications Commission has proposed rules that would force television providers to create a universal cable-box adapter. This would hand over shows to companies – TiVo, Google – that would peddle programming as their own…
The new rule amounts to government-sponsored piracy in allowing TiVo and Google to broadcast programs that providers pay to distribute. Google wouldn’t have to abide by carriage agreements or pay licensing fees, which is one reason content creators are pushing back. The stealing would no doubt violate copyright. Some 30 members of the Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler saying the rule would relegate minority programming to channels rarely visited by viewers. Google prodded the supposedly independent FCC in 2014 to bust open cable boxes, and Chairman Wheeler followed orders. The tech giant wants to sell ads against poached content, mowing over cable commercials and crushing advertising competitors.”
The federal government can’t be trusted to control our healthcare industry, our free speech rights, our children’s educational options, our Second Amendment rights and so on. Why would control over our home entertainment choices or the constantly-advancing telecommunications industry somehow be any different?
The Journal concludes by noting another ominous element: the Obama Administration’s mad rush to impose the remainder of its to-do list as the sun sets on its tenure:
The FCC rejected a similar proposal in 2010, but now the Democratic majority seems committed to ramming it through before President Obama leaves office. Mr. Wheeler has already done great harm to his reputation by taking direction from the White House to regulate the Internet. He’ll do even more damage if he does the cable-box bidding of Google.”
Well said. Fortunately, a bipartisan Congressional consensus, the creative community, consumer groups and other elements stand ready to stop the FCC’s scheme at the legislative, judicial and regulatory levels. Its up to the American electorate justifiably disgusted by crony capitalism and stifling federal overregulation to support them.