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Pimp Slapped

GovernmentTelevisionOccasionally you get to witness the Legislative branch beating up on some bureaucrat and it’s hard to watch. Usually the bureaucrat has overstepped their authority, tried to go further than Congress has allowed by law, and wants to expand their empire. Such is the case today, and Congress has pimp-slapped said bureaucrat into the stone age.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has had an odd habit lately of charging forward on things that had been previously settled by previous chairmen or Congress. He was pushing really hard for a la carte, despite many studies that all concluded it was a bad idea. Now he’s pushing for multicast must carry, despite the FCC itself having rejected it twice, and Congress having explicitly rejected it just last fall.

(Note: multicast must-carry would force video providers to carry more and more broadcast channels at a time when viewers are turning away from broadcast programming in favor of niche market programming. The broadcasters want it because they’re looking for guaranteed transmission of programming that people largely don’t want.)

Martin’s actions earned him a letter from the House Energy & Commerce Committee. It’s as close to a “what the hell are you thinking” note as I have ever seen.

[I]n addition to representing the wrong policy outcome, any Commission decision compelling multicast must-carry would contradict two prior Commission decisions and usurp Congressional authority. We therefore would object to any commission decision forcing MVPDs or other video providers to carry multiple broadcast program streams.

In other words, you’re stepping on some toes, and you might want to step back quickly.

(Disclaimer: While I work for the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, this post should in no way be construed as an official position of the Association. Thoughts in this space are mine and mine alone and do not reflect the views of my employer.)

Written by Michael Turk