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Lawmakers Ponder Communications Act Changes, Video’s Future

CEA’s Shapiro asks policymakers not to pick winners and losers in marketplace

As Congress seeks to update the Communications Act, lawmakers are focusing on video competition. However, the same lawmakers are thinking about radio’s future as well.

House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Chairman and former radio station owner Greg Walden, R-Ore., says the FCC regulates traditional video providers based on a bygone era. “Broadcast stations are going mobile and wireless carriers are streaming video. Programmers and pay-TV providers are filling smartphone and tablet screens with their content and services as fast as viewers are clamoring for them.”

At the same time, new entities are coming to market like Hulu, Netflix, YouTube and Roku and the Communications Act does not apply to these new players.

“We therefore have some decisions to make,” notes Walden, who spoke during his subcommittee’s hearing on the future of video today. “One option is to recognize the competitive landscape and start deregulating cable, satellite, and broadcast companies. The other is to expand the Communications Act to apply to the new technologies and services.”

Walden is not suggesting that lawmakers expand video regulation, saying that could harm competition from nascent Internet video providers just as existing cable, satellite and broadcast providers and programmers are experimenting with Internet distribution. And if lawmakers don’t intend to apply the old rules to new participants, Congress must recognize the inequity of continuing to apply those same rules to traditional players, said Walden.

In a letter to the subcommittee members, Consumer Electronics Association President/CEO Gary Shapiro agrees. “The video marketplace is forever evolving with new display technologies and an increasing array of content distributors,” Shapiro states.

“Policymakers must ensure that innovation is allowed to flourish by balancing the free market philosophy of ‘not picking winners and losers’ while ensuring that marketplace dominance does not cut off consumer access to new exciting video devices and distribution services,” adds Shapiro.

Walden’s subcommittee is holding a series of hearings on different aspects of media and began with the future of audio earlier this month.