February 4, 2016
Chairman Tom Wheeler
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel
Commissioner Ajit Pai
Commissioner Mignon Clyburn
Commissioner Michael O’Rielly
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street S.W.
Washington DC, 20554
Dear Chairman Wheeler and Commissioners:
We write to urge the Commission to halt the proposed new rules on set-top boxes, which would do irreparable damage to small Latino independent programmers and the Latino community if enacted.
As organizations championing Latino inclusion and advancement, we have spent many years advocating for equal treatment and fair representation of our community in the media – in front of and behind the camera. These new rules – the latest iteration of a proposal that tech interests have been pushing for years and that the Obama FCC wisely rejected in 2010 – would turn back the clock for our communities.
Many observers have already raised strong concerns:
- Thirty (30) Members of the Congressional Black Caucus recently wrote that these proposed rules would “cause irreparable harm to independent and minority programmers.”
- Fuse TV, which serves a wide range of diverse communities, has warned the rules likely “will undermine the goal of maintaining high-quality video content, particularly among ethnic, niche independent programmers.”
- The Multicultural Media, Technology, and Internet Council (MMTC) has argued that the “unintended consequences for minority programmers—who already lack equal access to capital and carriage on new media platforms—would impact their placement, profile, advertising revenue, and current and future investments in quality multicultural programming.”
AllVid would force existing TV providers to “unbundle” programs and hand them over to tech companies to reuse, repackage, and exploit in their own products – without negotiating for rights or paying the creators. If Latino creators and programmers aren’t paid for their work by companies that profit off it, they won’t be able to survive – leaving historically underserved communities with even fewer relevant choices.
Diverse programmers today depend upon carefully negotiated licensing agreements to set the terms by which their shows will be distributed, covering issues like advertising, channel placement, and on-demand replays. But AllVid would let tech companies raid these agreements, ignore their terms or pile on layers of new advertisements of their own. That would further devalue diverse programming and make it harder for networks serving communities of color to find an audience and survive. In the worst case, it would lead to a new round of TV “redlining” in which AllVid companies pick and choose what networks to show and drop Latino programming or bury it deep in the channel lineup or search results.
We are also concerned by the impact these rules will have on Latino consumers. Promoting competition and choice in video and lowering consumer bills are worthy goals, but the sweeping and radical rules being considered would actually undermine these objectives. Experts who studied these issues for the FCC warn that the rule would require a new adapter device to be designed, manufactured, and installed in every viewer’s home and paid for on their monthly bills, and that’s on top of buying a new AllVid device at retail. TiVo’s competitive box costs hundreds of dollars and requires a $14.99 monthly subscription – far more than the average $7.43 cost cited by the FCC for an existing box. This proposal seems likely to drive up costs for consumers.
We also worry about the impact on data privacy if tech companies are given unfettered access to track consumers’ personal viewing habits in the home. These AllVid companies would not be bound by the strict privacy rules that govern existing TV companies today.
Proponents of the AllVid proposal argue the rules would spur innovation and growth in the TV industry. But in reality, competition and choice in video has never been so strong and vibrant. As we write, the market is already innovating and providing consumers with an overwhelming abundance of new options.
Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu and new single-channel apps from networks like HBO and CBS are offering unprecedented options. And some traditional TV providers are already making their entire lineup available through apps on a wide array of retail devices without the need to lease a box at all. Sports leagues offer their games directly to viewers over apps, and new streaming devices like Roku and Apple TV are revolutionizing viewer options even further. Moreover, search capabilities that cross applications are already coming into the market.
Why adopt a radical new approach and put all this innovation at risk in a market that is innovating, changing and providing so many new options already?
Given the significant concerns regarding these proposed rules, and the rapid innovation occurring in the marketplace, it would be unwise to implement sweeping changes to the system currently in place. We urge the FCC to abandon these proposed new rules and protect viewer choice and diverse programming for all communities.
Ron Blackburn Moreno, President and CEO
Mario Solis-Marich, Vice President
Maria Cristina Caballero, President and CEO
Dialogue on Diversity
Catherine Pino, Founder
Freemind Beauty Productions
Mario H. Lopez, President
Hispanic Leadership Fund
Rosa Mendoza, Executive Director
Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership
Brent Wilkes, National Executive Director
League of United Latin American Citizens
Amy Hinojosa, President and CEO
MANA, A National Latina Organization
Rafael Fantauzzi, President and CEO
National Puerto Rican Coalition
Ignacio Salazar, President and CEO
SER-Jobs for Progress National
Jose A. Marquez-Leon, CEO and President
TechLatino: The Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association
Javier Palomarez, President and CEO
United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Dr. Juan Andrade, Jr., President and Co-Founder
United States Hispanic Leadership Institute
Victor Cerda, Senior Vice President
VMe TV and Vme Kids