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NAB wants FCC to apply existing exclusivity rules to Internet video as well

The NAB has told the FCC that exclusivity rules for programming and must-carry should be applied to programmers using the Internet for distribution. The issue is critical to broadcasters because a large amount of money is at stake as the Internet rapidly grows as a vehicle for more people to view television programming.

The FCC is trying to decide if video providers using the Internet are subject to the same rules as traditional MVPDs (multichannel video program distributors). It has asked for advice before deciding the issue and the NAB has provided it—twice.

The NAB has insisted that the Internet and broadband video services “cannot be permitted to expropriate broadcast signals at will, absent any right or ability by broadcasters to control the distribution of their signals over the Internet or to obtain compensation from broadband video providers seeking to exploit such signals. Such a result would seriously undermine the purpose of retransmission consent and the ability of broadcasters to fulfill their public service obligations.”

The NAB said that those who feel that OVDs (online video distributors) should be given special status as “small, start-up companies” are wrong and should not exclude them from the current rules. “Many of these OVDs are multi-million dollar or multi-billion dollar companies that clearly have the wherewithal to compete effectively in the video marketplace,” the NAB said.

“Retransmission consent and program exclusivity rules are marketplace mechanisms that enforce private contractual and signal rights,” the NAB brief said. “They assure fair and equitable treatment for broadcasters with respect to those desiring to exploit broadcast signals for commercial gains.”

The NAB argued that signal carriage and local program exclusivity rules must be applied to OVD broadband service providers in the same manner as they apply to other MVPDs. Otherwise the FCC “could encourage existing MVPDs to create separate OVD subsidiaries and attempt to circumvent MVPD requirements altogether,” it said.

The NAB said there are no legal or policy justifications to exempt program distributors desiring to retransmit broadcast signals over the Internet from these requirements.

“Leaving broadcasters unable to control Internet distribution of their signals and without the means to negotiate for fair compensation for use of their signals would contradict Congress’ mandate that ‘anyone engaged in retransmission consent by whatever means’ obtain a station’s consent, and would seriously undermine stations’ ability to fulfill their public service obligations,” the NAB said.