Frank Lloyd was advising FCC chmn Charles Ferris in the late 1970s when he ran into a conundrum: How to justify the “bizarre roadblocks that had been put up by the broadcasters to protect their monopoly,” Lloyd recalls. One doozy was called the “no leap-frogging rule” that blocked satellite transmission of distant broadcast signals and was frustrating a colorful Atlanta businessman named Ted Turner, among other cable pioneers. Ferris was also perplexed. “I tried to explain this rule, and he said, ‘That’s ridiculous’,” Lloyd says. The TBS “superstation” launched not much later—and the rest is multichannel history. Lloyd retired only last year. And he’s already missed.
Lloyd, who later became a key cable lawyer at Mintz Levin and spent decades advocating for cable, takes our lifetime achievement award this year not as an MSO exec—but as an invaluable cable asset whose knowledge of the FCC became a key weapon in cable’s fight for a level playing field. In fact, he’s one of the few people cable can truly thank for clearing away those roadblocks and helping it achieve the market freedom that led to its expansion—all while content options flourished amid a new environment for programming.
Now spending a lot of time with his family and enjoying a slower pace, Lloyd still keeps abreast of cable news and marvels at how much the industry has changed. “When I came in, the only non-broadcast video competition a franchised cable operator had was from overbuilders,” he says. “And the big fights were in the trenches of the municipal franchising process.” Now it’s telcos, satellite, over-the-top providers and a number of other broadband-based options that compete for consumer eyeballs. So what’s Lloyd’s advice for young cable lawyers trying to figure all of this out? Don’t forget the basics. “I think face time is incredibly important, but I may be a dinosaur,” he says. “I don’t think you get someone’s trust through an email. I don’t think you have to buy them an expensive dinner either. You just have to sit down with them and make it clear.” Lloyd says personal visits with FCC staff are especially important now because the issues are so complicated. “You have to follow up with a visit,” he says. “Half the stuff you send over there ends up on the floor in a huge stack. I know because I used to be the guy over there.”
Influences Lloyd credits include former FCC chmn Charles Ferris, former FCC general counsel Henry Geller and former NCTA chief Robert Sachs.
Lloyd served for many years as chairman of the Practicing Law Institute’s annual programs on cable law in NYC and San Francisco.
Lloyd is a 1967 graduate of Harvard Law School.
Lloyd cuts a mean rug and has worked up a dance-floor sweat at many a cable industry party.
Don’t miss our 4th annual CableFAX Program and Top Ops Awards, Tues Oct 18 at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel & Spa. For more info and registration go here. For more CableFAX Top Ops honorees, go here.