The Cable Industry Trots Out Mitch McConnell To Fight Against Cable Box Competition

from the nobody-believes-the-words-coming-out-of-your-mouth dept

We’ve been talking for weeks about how the cable industry has dramatically ramped up lobbying in an attempt to kill the FCC’s plan to bring some competition to the set top box market. The cable industry opposes the idea for two reasons: competition would dramatically reduce the $21 billion the sector makes each year off of rental fees, but the flood of new, cheaper boxes would also likely direct users — historically locked behind cable’s walled gardens — to a huge variety of streaming video alternatives.

But the cable industry can’t just come out and admit that they’re terrified of competition — so they’ve been attacking the FCC’s plan with a two pronged approach. One, pay for an absolute torrent of hysterically-misleading editorials that claim set top competition will hurt consumers, scare the children, ramp up piracy, and knock the planet off of its orbital axis. The other prong of their attack involves a lobbying mainstay: throwing money at politicians to take positions they don’t have the slightest actual understanding of.

Case in point is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who this week was nudged by the cable sector to jump into the fray with comments like this one:

“Rather than applying a light regulatory touch,” Senator McConnell wrote in a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, “the FCC would require existing programming distributors to provide the copyrighted programming they have licensed from content providers to third party manufacturers and app developers, none of whom would be bound by the agreements to protect the content.”

This is a line that the cable sector and its marionettes have been repeating, but it’s simply not true. As the FCC’s proposal outline notes (pdf), all the plan does is require that cable operators deliver the same expensive programming they do now — using the same copy protection and business arrangements — without requiring a CableCARD. A set top vendor can’t just claim cable broadcasts as their own and ignore existing programming agreements, but that’s one of several misleading arguments being put forth by the sector to kill the initiative.

Advertisers looking to protect legacy cash cow relationships have also been trying to derail the FCC’s effort, claiming that the reform plan will somehow hurt consumers, violate copyright (as the EFF did a great job detailing that’s not true either), and thrust the entire pay TV advertising ecosystem into “chaos”:

“The current market structure for television advertising supports advertisers’ ability to place their ads based on national, regional or local distribution; the type of programming or specific content; the audience composition; and the time of day or night that the ads appear,” the ANA wrote. The proposed regulations could tilt that system toward chaos, it suggested.”

Perhaps the ANA hadn’t noticed, but the legacy pay TV advertising ecosystem already faces a wholesale revolution in terms of how consumers are served TV programming and the ads attached to them. If the existing “market structure” can’t adapt behavioral and location advertising to consumers viewing TV content on a myriad of devices and hardware, they may want to change professions. In reality, advertiser opposition is based on little more than fear; fear that they may have to share revenues with new economy companies, and fear that these companies may actually give consumers what they want — like the ability to skip ads.

But again it’s not as if the FCC’s proposal is even really that dramatic of an idea. It would simply act to accelerate a shift that — thanks in large part to cable and broadcast lobbying power — is already happening but could take another decade to fully materialize. The shift away from the traditional cable box and legacy TV is well underway, and it’s hubris to think it can be stopped by pouting. Opposition to the set top box reform plan is little more than the dull creaking of yet another legacy sector behaving like a toddler because the uncompetitive markets they’ve built over a generation can’t somehow, magically, live forever.

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Comments on “The Cable Industry Trots Out Mitch McConnell To Fight Against Cable Box Competition”

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Vidiot (profile) says:

The dye marker quote

You know how law enforcement includes an exploding dye marker in ransom payments? That’s intended to show that the person trying to spend the stained cash is actually a criminal, and that there’s only one way they could have obtained the loot. And it clearly, unequivocally, indicates guilt.

When the Senate Majority Leader can repeat only one claim or charge about a technology he wants to disparage, and that untrue claim is so bizarrely unique to a lobbyist organization, it’s like the dye marker — it’s a clear indication that there’s only one place it could have originated. And for corrupt politicians in the pocket of lobbyists and their clients, it clearly, unequivocally, indicates guilt.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The dye marker quote

That is not true. Average citizens would easily take money from these guys and not even recognized that there is dye on it from an illegal robbery.

At best the dyes can only provide a lead, in no way does it mean someone is guilty. You like so many other people need a head check on what evidence means! Evidence like art, its all in the eye of the beholder and there are a lot of folks able to mess up on the evidence a lot!

Jeremy Lyman (profile) says:

Incompetence V. Malice

“The FCC would require existing programming distributors to provide the copyrighted programming they have licensed from content providers to third party manufacturers and app developers”

This argument seems to hinge on their belief that everyone would steal cable if they didn’t have to get their tuner from the cable company. From the consumers’ point of view that’s ridiculous, the cable company would just shut off the service from the source. However my experience has lead me to believe that they are completely inept at controlling content and keeping ‘premium’ channels out of my house. Maybe we would all have free access to the raw feed if we didn’t have their proprietary choke-point in every living room. Not that this legitimizes their complaints, it shouldn’t be our job to not receive what they shouldn’t have sent, but that may help explain this otherwise bat-shit crazy sounding complaint.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Incompetence V. Malice

“ shouldn’t be our job to not receive what they shouldn’t have sent..”

Easily solved. All video content could be overlaid with a full-screen semi-transparent message similar to that found in so many corporate email footers “If you have received this content in error please delete all copies immediately and notify the sender”. At one stroke they have created an enhanced viewing experience, allowing them to up the subscription fees above inflation, and dealt with the issue. Innovation, cable-style.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Incompetence V. Malice

I was amused by a different portion of that sentence…

Rather than applying a light regulatory touch, the FCC would require….

Note first that regulation IS requiring. There is no “light touch” involved. Either you require, or you don’t.

Note second that the good senator has not specified what “a light regulatory touch” would consist of, and denigrated the FCC’s plans as “not that”.

ArkieGuy (profile) says:


By “programming” does he mean the shows or the schedule? I think the Cable industry is intentionally confusing the two.

Whey they say “we have to provide unencrypted programming for free to the set top boxes” they mean, “we have to provide an unencrypted schedule to the set top box”. But then they carefully don’t correct people when they quote them as saying “cable companies have to provide unencrypted SHOWS to the set top boxes which will lead to pirating”.

Cecil says:

God forbid...

If we don’t control and provide the user’s TV’s then piracy, discrimination, world will end, etc… So no longer will they just control the settop box, now they will rent you your TV’s too! After all, the settop box is only a link in a chain and if you don’t control the entire chain, you don’t control anything…

Jeremy Lyman (profile) says:

Re: God forbid...

Oddly enough they came up with a DRM specification and forced TV manufacturers to license it so they could maintain control of their content while allowing 3rd party devices to play it.
But that’s crazy when talking about cable boxes…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why would anyone believe anything a politician says?

The problem is not the there ever was a time, the problem is discovering the moments when a politician is speaking truth… like when they think the mic is off and say a few nasty things?

Everyone just needs to understand that Politicians are just like us. When we go into a job interview we try to hide the negative and display all the positives. Politicians all do the same, just to a much wider audience.

Perhaps that is why Politicians are so hated? Because they are a reflection of us, almost as if we are looking into a mirror.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Why would anyone believe anything a politician says?

Uh, No.

Politicians are so widely hated because it is widely recognized that they sell out the public interest to corporate interests in exchange for cash. Bribery to favor a few while hurting the vast majority.

Everyone recognizes this.

There are plenty of people who do not see this as a reflection of themselves. People who would never seek to get into a position where they could do this traitorous thing.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Why would anyone believe anything a politician says?

“Everyone just needs to understand that Politicians are just like us”

Politicians are not just like us. It takes a certain, (thankfully relatively rare) kind of personality to be able to stomach being a politician.

That’s part of why I think that if someone wants to be in office, that’s a sign that they may not be the sort of person you want in office.

Anonymous Coward says:

Probably disingenuous rather than a lie

The “actual” claim, if any journalist were ever allowed to pin down one of these puppets, would probably turn out to be that the programming information is copyrighted, because of course it is.
I’m more angered by those purposefully disingenuous points than I am by outright untruths. Non-true statements can be mistakes, but carefully crafted disingenuousness takes very specific effort to create an illusion of truth that doesn’t hold up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Probably disingenuous rather than a lie

What makes you think that a journalist that would nail them down would be allowed nearby?

There is a reason that the 1st is under assault. If the government can mandate that Journalists be registered to do journalist just like what we are trying to do with the 2nd amendment then they can pick and chose all the journalist they like and excommunicate those they hate.

You can bet all those journalists you see on TV are hand picked the same way we never have any open debates anymore. Nothing is honest about any of it, and we have yet to do anything about it except give them low numbers in media polls.

Dismembered3po (profile) says:

Um...Hulu, anyone?

Hey, um…guys? Psst! Yo!

I think the “targeted, geographical advertizing” problem has already been solved. You know, buy the actual people who are here predicting the apocalypse. YES. ESPECIALLY you, Comcast. YOU HAVE ACTUALLY ALREADY SOLVED THIS.

Ok, I know you’d all like to forget, but you guys own your very own streaming platform. Yeah, yeah…that Hulu thing.

That Hulu thing already identifies where I’m located, and already delivers the MARKET-SPECIFIC version of the shows I’m watching, and also….the ADS along with it.

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