Jesse Jackson Likens FCC Cable Box Reform Plan To 'Snarling Dogs, Water Hoses And Church Bombings'

from the sock-puppetry dept

Back in February the FCC voted to open up the captive cable set top box market to competition, potentially opening the door to better, cheaper hardware, but also putting an end to the $21 billion the cable industry makes annually in set top box rental fees. Shortly thereafter the cable industry responded by pushing an absolute torrent of misleading editorials in newspapers and in websites nationwide. Some of these editorials claim set top box competition will result in privacy, security, or piracy Armageddon. Most try to claim set top box competition is some kind of nefarious plan by Google to freeload on cable’s “amazing history of innovation.”

But the most obnoxious of these editorials have been those trying to claim that the FCC’s set top box reform plan will hurt minority communities and diversity. We’ve long noted how one of the cable industry’s favorite lobbying tricks is throwing money at minority groups so they’ll parrot bad telecom policy, whether that’s supporting the latest merger or opposing net neutrality. In short, many such groups are willing to support policies that actively harm their constituents — for just the right amount of cash.

Enter Jesse Jackson, who this week penned an Op-ed over at USAToday that right out of the gate starts off on unsteady footing by mentioning the FCC’s set top box reform plan in the same breath as “snarling dogs, water hoses and church bombings in the American South”:

“National news coverage of the snarling dogs, water hoses and church bombings in the American South were the catalysts to exposing the ugly truths of racism and bigotry in the 1960s. Local news outlets gave new meaning to what the struggle looked like for people on its front lines. That is why a new proposal at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate TV ?set top boxes” has raised so much concern.”

Wait, what? Because history is filled with racism means the FCC’s plan to open up the cable set top box market to competition raises concern? If you’ve actually bothered to read the FCC’s proposal (pdf), all the rules would do would require cable companies to take their existing programming — and make it available to third party hardware using the delivery methods and copy protection of the industry’s choice. If anything the move would result in consumers getting access to more diverse programming options than ever before, given it would eliminate the traditional cable box walled garden, and replace it with hardware that nudges consumers in the direction of an ocean of streaming content.

Just like the cable industry (surely coincidental, right?), Jackson tries to claim that the FCC plan would let hardware vendors obtain cable programming “without any compensation”:

“Essentially, the FCC is proposing that small and diverse television programmers such as Revolt and Vme TV hand over their television content to third party device manufacturers without any compensation. These companies could then pull networks apart, ignore copyright protections and dismantle the local and national advertising streams that have traditionally supported high quality, multicultural content.”

Again though, that’s not true. Cable customers will still pay cable companies the same high rates for the exact same content lineups using the exact same copy protection, users will just be able to access it via a wider variety of hardware. That’s much like how third party hardware (like TiVO) work now, except without the costly and cumbersome CableCARD installation. Jackson (or what ever cable lobbyist ghost writer rented his name for the afternoon) preaches on — pretending he’s engaged in a brave civil rights battle:

“Diversity on television and media still matters as much as it did in the 1960s. While new video platforms and content are being developed, the promise of this new medium will not be an immediate substitute for the current range of images and voices now available on TV. Furthermore, the market is already demonstrating its own agility to change with many new devices, streaming options and services bringing traditional television and Internet video onto our screens seamlessly.

Fighting for diversity in programming and media ownership is one thing. Opposing a plan that would actually help diverse communities by making cable cheaper while delivering more diverse content than ever before is something else entirely. Jackson tries to support his shaky position by rattling off a laundry list of politicians and minority groups that oppose the FCC’s plan:

“Leaders of the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses have voiced opposition to this proposal; to date, over 80 House Democrats have expressed opposition or serious concerns. Major civil rights organizations, such as the National Urban League and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), have asked the FCC to pause this proceeding until more empirical data detailing the impacts on diversity is released.”

And while it’s possible a few members of these groups actually believe (or are mislead to believe) the FCC’s plan hurts diversity, all Jackson’s laundry list of such groups does is highlight just how pervasive this kind of lobbyist dreck has become. Most consumers frankly have no idea that “astroturf” of this type even exists, and as a result many will be convinced that a plan that actually helps them will do them harm thanks to Jackson’s missive. Comcast has found this kind of sock puppetry so effective, it now calls its top lobbyist David Cohen the company’s “Chief Diversity Officer.”

And while this really is nothing short of disinformation, it speaks volumes about the quality of the cable industry’s argument — and its fear of set real top box competition — that it needs to resort to grotesque, misleading puppetry of this type.

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Companies: comcast

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Comments on “Jesse Jackson Likens FCC Cable Box Reform Plan To 'Snarling Dogs, Water Hoses And Church Bombings'”

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Austin says:

Dear Documentary Film Makers....

I think that a good documentary on the shady side of telecom would be a great Netflix original… Who better to talk and disseminate this type of information about the crazy things Comcast and Verizon have pulled over the years? I think it would be an interesting film. These types of tactics could be exposed and make them think twice before using these types of ridiculously misleading tactics.

I.T. Guy says:

Whenever ANYTHING starts out with… Jessie Jackson… said following statements should be taken with a grain of salt. Actually it should be ignored. I was trying to be nice. He’s the biggest fuking idiot to walk the planet. I cant wait until he is united with Cassius Clay.

Jesse is the equivalent of tribe leaders that sold their own people into slavery.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Hi Name Was "Muhammad Ali"

His given name was Cassius Clay. He legally changed it to a stereotypical Arabic name (despite not being Arabic) after joining a radical Islamist hate group, the Nation of Islam.

What part of any of those facts makes a person who refers to his original name a “racist peace of garbage”?

JBDragon (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’m sure the cable company paid him a nice fat donation otherwise things would have turned out the other way. That’s what he does. Threaten’s company’s, gets a big check and all is good again!!!

Right/Wrong, it doesn’t matter. The only side he’s on is is own. Who are these people giving him a voice? He really needs to disappear.

Anonymous Coward says:

There was a nice rebuttal comment at the USAToday article from a gentleman named Stephen Davis who lists himself as Chair/CEO of the Black Education Network in which he set out several examples of where Rev. Jackson is wrong. Too bad USAToday didn’t get someone like Mr. Davis to write an educated opinion article on this matter.

Anonymous Coward says:

Here is what cable companies fear about opening up the set top box market

Imagine if a company was able to produce a set top box that worked like current set top boxes, but also made YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, etc integrate in to where they looked and felt like regular cable channels. Even provide a guide. Now people don’t have to swtich between a cable box, Chromecast, Roku or any other number of devices to view content. They could access it all from one convenient box with a consistent interface. Imagine the horror!

JBDragon (profile) says:

Re: Here is what cable companies fear about opening up the set top box market

You are kind of describing Tivo!!! Get one that supports a Cable card, and now you have your Cable Box along with Youtube, Netflix, Amazon, etc with Universal search. Even adding content to stream.

This takes it to another level, where you don’t even need a cable card. They’re a pain in the butt to deal with and the cable company’s have been fighting that all this time. You need much cheaper systems like ROKU and AppleTV but with Encryption support of whatever Comcast wants to use to protect content but would work on any Box supporting their encryption protocol, now you really have something.

Instead as always, this is nothing but trying to protect their Setup Cablebox rental fee’s. Fee’s that you pay off the box many times over and still never own it. It’s plain as day who’s getting screwed. That’s the customers, including the POOR PEOPLE who instead could have the option of just buying a cheap Box and no rental fee’s.

Really, how dumb do these company’s and JJ think people are? I know some people blindly follow them, but I have to think far more don’t believe this garbage.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

While his past actions have merit, it now appears he is willing to sell out any good will he has left (and stunts like this erode the last fragments) for anyone willing to meet his price.

What if the people who saw the snarling dogs & fire hoses turned on people believed the party line that they were just being uppity negros? They wouldn’t have the full picture of what was actually happening, much like Rev. Jackson talking about a topic he knows nothing about. He is selling his image to try and paint this as a whitey is gonna force us back into the dark old times unless we allow the cable companies to maintain their total unchecked control over set top boxes.

I guess the master who we know is going to beat us down is better than a chance that the new master could be as bad.

Anonymous Coward says:

Of course “minority” leaders like Jesse Jackson are easy targets for corruption. The huge bureaucracy of Washington D.C. was practically custom made for them. Had his son Jesse Jackson Jr. not gone to prison, he’d probably be sitting atop some federal agency, just like **FCC head** Colin Powell’s son, doing the bidding of big corporations while working both sides of the revolving door. It’s no coincidence that all of Jesse Jackson’s children got into politics in some form.

This is a big reason why these “captured” regulatory agencies, and the rest of the government’s bloated bureaucracy, will remain a permanent fixture. They tend to be staffed by the sons and daughters of politicians and lobbyists (not that there’s any real difference) — especially racial minorities. Anyone who tries to do something about the inbred corruption and widespread nepotism within the halls of Washington gets labeled a racist and a bigot.

John85851 (profile) says:

Buy an HD antennae, ditch the cable box

From his opening paragraph, it almost sounds like Jesse Jackson is arguing against cable set-top boxes:
National news coverage of the snarling dogs, water hoses and church bombings in the American South were the catalysts to exposing the ugly truths of racism and bigotry in the 1960s. Local news outlets gave new meaning to what the struggle looked like for people on its front lines.
To continue:
This is why I’m telling everyone to go to Walmart, pay a one-time fee for an HD antennae, and get all the local channels for free without needing to pay monthly fees for a cable box.

JBDragon (profile) says:

Re: Buy an HD antennae, ditch the cable box

Which is what I get when I got my house, Install a nice large antenna. When on my roof, I don’t see a single antenna anywhere!!!

My year of 105Mbps for $50 was up and it jumped to over $80 just for Internet ONLY. Now I’m on a new deal, 75Mbps service which is still more then fast enough, but it includes HBO and their Streaming service and a basic cable Box as local channels. No fee on the box. I don’t have it hooked up as I’d have to run a cable for it, so who cares I have my Antenna anyway which picks up more channels. I can use the HBOGo app on my many devices, and Comcasts Streaming service, I forgot what it’s called, I don’t care about. This cost me just over $45 a month. So it’s CHEAPER for slightly slower Internet and free HBO. I really only wanted Internet ONLY but that was more expensive!!!

They really are trying to do whatever they can to protect their TV business and not just become some dumb Internet pipe. A year from now, I’ll see what new deal I can get to keep my costs down.

James says:

Cable sucks

Set top boxes are the best physical example of why monopolies suck. There is no reason for them, and they are simply there to help cable companies rape us for a few more bucks. This things could easily be baked into our televisions, but no, we have these ridiculous-looking energy hogs (they use more power than my 42″ LEDTV) sitting in our living rooms. I hope the cable companies completely disappear in the next ten years.

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