In written testimony to Congress, Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen said the satellite broacaster’s controversial new commercial-skipping feature will help protect children from the marketing efforts of the fast food and alcohol industries.
Called the “AutoHop,” the feature on Dish’s digitial video recorders allows its subscribers to avoid commercials on recorded shows from broadcast networks ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. Although consumers can already fast-forward through commercials on recorded shows, the AutoHop has caused concerns for the networks because it goes a step further. When it is activated and used for recording programs, commercials more or less disappear, and can be automatically skipped without the hassle of fast-forwarding.
“This means that allowing your kids to watch TV doesn’t have to mean they have no choice but to see commercials for junk food and alcohol,” Ergen said in testimony submitted in advance of Wednesday’s Future of Video hearing being held by the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.
That will likely be met with eye rolling from the broadcast networks. NBC, CBS and Fox have filed suits against Dish and the AutoHop. Fox said the feature violates copyrights and that Dish has a goal of “destroying the fundamental underpinnings of the broadcast television ecosystem.”
Also testifying Wednesday at the Future of Video hearing are broadcaster David Barrett of Hearst Television; Gigi B. Sohn, president of media watchdog group Public Knowledge; and Michael Powell, president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn.