Sen. Jay D.
The Consumer Choice in Online Video Act looks to do for online video services -- known in the media industry as over the top, or OTT -- what the 1992 Cable Act did for the satellite television industry by making sure it has access to programming.
"Evidence is growing that some traditional media and broadband companies are attempting to discourage the growth of online video platforms through various anti-competitive practices," said an announcement detailing Rockefeller's bill.
The 1992 bill made it harder for programmers to not sell to satellite companies and cleared the way for
Rockefeller's bill specifically seeks to prohibit big media companies from refusing to sell content to OTT services. It would attempt to do this by putting "reasonable limits on the use of contractual provisions in video programming carriage contracts that harm the growth of online video competition," according to a summary of the bill making its way around Capitol Hill and within media circles.
There have been rumblings in the media industry that some pay-TV distributors negotiate contracts with programmers that make selling to an OTT service less appealing.
In a statement, Rockefeller said he hopes that the Consumer Choice in Online Video Act will give consumers more choices in both distribution services and the channels they receive.
"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," he said in a statement unveiling the bill.
That may prove to be a difficult task. The major media companies, including Time Warner,
In other words, if
How OTTs should be regulated has been a subject of much discussion in Washington over the past few years. The
With Rockefeller set to retire after 2014 and no Republicans on board to co-sponsor the bill, the odds of it gaining any traction seem long. The cable and satellite industries also will lobby hard to make sure no legislation gives OTT services special treatment.
Rockefeller has long been a critic of big media for both their content and business practices. In 2011, he said TV news is too "dumbed down" and entertainment programming is too "obscene" and "promiscuous." He also has been critical of media consolidation and the constant fighting between distributors and programmers over carriage deals that often result in consumers losing channels.
"I strongly believe that my legislation will help foster a consumer-centric revolution in the video marketplace," he said Tuesday.
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