FCC's Mandatory App Plan Threatens 'Creative Industry Workers,' Hollywood Says

A broad coalition of entertainment industry groups is opposing Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal requiring cable companies to make programs available through apps.

The "one-sided proposal undermines the value of creative works, shrinks revenue streams from which creators make a living, and threatens the hard-fought wages and benefits of creative industry workers," the Motion Picture Association of America, American Federation of Musicians, Directors Guild of America, Recording Industry Association of America and other groups write.

The proposal, unveiled last week by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, would require cable and satellite providers to make TV programs available to subscribers through apps that would run on popular platforms, including Roku, Apple, iOS, Windows and Android. Wheeler's plan also includes provisions for licensing. While the details haven't yet been fully disclosed, the FCC said Thursday that the new rules will require "a standard license governing the process for placing an app on a device or platform."



If the proposal passes, consumers will no longer have to rent set-top boxes from their cable companies, at an average cost of $231 a year, in order to watch TV. Instead, most cable and satellite subscribers will be able to watch programs on smartphones, tablets and other devices.

The entertainment organizations say that framework amounts to "an unacceptable and unworkable de facto compulsory licensing regime that requires creators to allow their work to be shared across multiple platforms without compensation and without regard to the creators’ rights to exclusively control their distribution."

The groups add: "Forcing one-size-fits-all licensing terms on an industry that is as varied and diverse as the movies, music and shows we make.”

Advocacy organization Public Knowledge, which supports the FCC's proposal, suggests that the concerns about the rules' impact on content creators are misplaced.

"The Commission’s proposal to promote new ways for content creators to reach viewers will benefit the creative community, particularly diverse and independent programmers who currently have no place in the cable bundle, or who have to give up flexibility to be included," Public Knowledge says.

"After the Commission’s proposal is in effect, as today, copyright holders will retain the exclusive right to authorize reproductions, distributions, performances of their works," the organization adds. "The FCC’s efforts to promote app and device competition do not transfer any copyright interests to competitive app and device makers."

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