UPDATED 5:03 P.M. ET

Rockefeller Bill Could ‘Legitimize’ Aereo

Legislation introduced by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller today could clear the way for Aereo and other similar online video distributors, allowing them to retransmit broadcast signal without compensation, says a communications lobbyist.

Legislation introduced today by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) could “legitimize Aereo-like services,” allowing them to retransmit broadcast programming without paying retransmission consent fees, a communications industry lobbyist said.

“That would allow a company to take programming they don’t own and resell it in an online world without compensating the copyright owners,” the lobbyist said.

NAB President Gordon Smith, in the association’s official response to the legislation, also expressed concerns about any proposal that “legitimize theft of copyrighted programming.

“Copyright theft poses a very real threat to the revenue stream that supports local television and the U.S. network-affiliate TV relationship that is the envy of the world.”

 The bill, the Consumer Choice in Online Video Act, according to the senator, is intended to prevent traditional media and broadband companies from using their market power anti-competitively to discourage the growth of online video.

“My legislation aims to enable the ultimate a la carte—to give consumers the ability to watch the programming they want to watch, when they want to watch it, how they want to watch it and pay only for what they actually watch,” said Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, in the news release. 

BRAND CONNECTIONS

The bill would, according to the news release, also give online video distributors “reasonable access” to the video programming of others, and “explores ways for online video distributors to negotiate to carry broadcast television content and facilitate greater consumer choice in programming.”

Among other things, the bill, according to the release, would “give all online video distributors fundamental competitive protections in the video marketplace similar to what satellite providers were given in the Cable Competition and Consumer Protection Act of 1992.”

In addition, the bill would put “reasonable limits on the use of contractual provisions in video programming carriage contracts that harm the growth of online video competition.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association also indicated that it was unhappy with the legislation.

“In a world marked by…robust competition, prudent policy dictates the removal of regulatory obstacles for all instead of creating marketplace disparities that would ‘cherry pick’ rights and obligations for some,” NCTA continued.

“We deeply respect Chairman Rockefeller and look forward to working with him and all members of the committee towards our mutual goal of ensuring that the video marketplace continues to thrive.”

The watchdog Free Press supported the bill, however.

“Powerful cable, Internet and broadcast companies shouldn’t be allowed to run roughshod over online video competitors,” said Matt Wood, Free Press policy director, in a statement. “This bill would keep those incumbents from discriminating against online options, and would help put those alternatives on a more equal footing with traditional providers.”


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