EVEN A MOVE TO L.A. WON’T SPARE CABLE OF REGULATION.
After staging The Cable Show in Wonkington, er Washington last year, the industry moves to a more glamorous setting in 2010. But the venue change doesn’t mean regulatory issues are off the table. With the Administration more ensconced (there wasn’t an FCC chairman in place during last year’s show), there will be plenty of Beltway in Lalaland. Below are issues likely to get attention.
Retrans Consent: This hasn’t received much notice at recent shows. That’s sure to change with some of cable’s biggest distributors petitioning the FCC to reform the retrans consent process following high-profile disputes. Initial comments on the petition are due just days after The Show concludes. It will be interesting to see how much (or, more likely, how little) Comcast execs say about this given the pending NBCU transaction. "I…expect policy makers to hear a lot about retrans and the need for swift action to fix a clearly outdated regulatory regime," lawyer Seth Davidson says.
Comcast-NBCU: There are no panels specifically on the deal, which is under review at the FCC and DOJ. But the proposed JV will be top of mind and smart moderators will quiz panelists on it. Every action NBCU and Comcast execs make at The Show will be scrutinized. With NBCU’s night at Universal Studios, we’ll be looking to see if Brian Roberts and Jeff Zucker get on The Simpsons Ride together — or does that violate SEC rules?
National Broadband Plan: Almost everything the FCC talks about lately relates to THE plan. "I expect it to be ‘the’ hot issue…in particular, the impact of the Court of Appeals’ decision regarding the FCC’s authority," Davidson says. Of particular concern to cable is the plan’s recommendation for a gateway allowing consumer electronics companies to access TV programming via a standardized IP interface.
In his first appearance at The Show as FCC chief, look for Julius Genachowski to address the competitive set-top market and CableCARDs. Broadband adoption will be emphasized and what the plan could mean for public perceptions of high-speed service.
Network Neutrality: The so-called Open Internet will receive attention given the FCC’s proceeding on the issue and Comcast’s court win April 6. The key issue is how the FCC gets the authority it wants over broadband — via Congress or by reclassifying broadband services under Title II, something cable would fight hard because it could introduce a host of regulatory burdens.
Potpourri: Issues that straddle the classification of regulatory policy might be discussed. Privacy remains hot. TV Everywhere (see page 16) will be around, too. Lawmakers want to know how TV Everywhere fits the changing media landscape. And then there’s online safety for kids — which may get more attention as the government looks to encourage broadband connections in every home.
Analyst Craig Moffet of Sanford Bernstein isn’t sure what to expect in L.A. "Maybe just a lot of head scratching about what it would mean to be Title II and to have universal integrated gateway boxes."
Who, What, Where, When
Who: FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski
What: General Session
Where: Nokia Theater
When: May 13, 9am
Who: Attorneys General for MD and Washington
What: Policy Approaches for Protecting Kids Online
Where: Room 409
When: May 11, 4:30pm
Who: FCC and NCTA Staffs
What: Discussion of Network Neutrality, Retrans et al
Where: Room 409
When: May 12 (FCC), 11am & 2pm; May 13 (NCTA), 3:30pm