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CEA To Congress: Ensure Video Choice

Washington – The Consumer Electronics Association called for Congress to safeguard Americans’ ability to choose the video services and technologies they desire, as the Senate Communications Subcommittee held an information gathering hearing on the state of video, Tuesday.

Michael Petricone, CEA government and regulatory affairs senior VP, said “Yesterday’s hearing reinforces the need for Congress to safeguard Americans’ ability to enjoy choice in new video services and technologies. We were disappointed by the National Association of Broadcasters’ (NAB) repeated and spurious attacks on new technologies like Aereo and the Dish Hopper as being somehow illegal. 

“In fact, the millions of Americans who wish to fast forward through commercials or watch free over-the-air broadcasts on their computers are not wrongdoers; they are simply viewers who wish to watch TV more conveniently and easily.”

Petricone called on broadcasters to move aggressively to meet consumer needs and embrace new TV technologies, rather block them with litigation or threats to pull programming off the air.

“More, we share the concerns of [U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.)], who noted that broadcasters have use of free public spectrum and suggested that if they choose to pull high-value content from the airwaves, the spectrum should be repurposed for a higher public good,” Petricone said.

During the hearing, Senator Warner voiced his concern with News Corp. president Chase Carey’s warning that if broadcasters lost the Aereo TV challenge, some high-value content might have to move to cable.

The CEA lauded the NAB’s stated commitment to conclude broadcast spectrum incentive auctions in a timely manner.

According to coverage by TWICE sister publication Broadcasting & Cable, the general consensus of Tuesday’s hearings was that the government needed to take into account the rapidly changing nature of the marketplace for video delivery.

Former subcommittee member and Commerce Committee chair, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), made a special guest appearance in support of a la carte programming legislation for pay TV services introduced last week.

Former FCC chairman and current NCTA president Michael Powell argued against sweeping Cable Act reform, and pointed to studies showing that a la carte programming wouldn’t necessarily lower costs to consumers.

National Association of Broadcasters president Gordon Smith called for preserving the value of free, over-the-air broadcasting.

According to the report, Smith warned that Dish’s ad-skipping technology threatened broadcasters advertising-derived revenue stream that supports free, local, public interest programming, and that Aereo TV’s models now threatens broadcasters’ revenue from  retransmission consent.

 Dish executive R. Stanton Dodge, reiterated his company’s position that The Hopper does not delete ads, and requires subscribers to manually take the option of skipping them through its AutoHop feature.