ANA Says FCC’S Set Top Box Proposal Is Seriously Flawed

The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) today reaffirmed its strong opposition to the proposal of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow consumer electronics manufacturers and other developers to make set top boxes that can provide access to multichannel video programming.  In reply comments to the Commission, ANA stated that the agency’s proposal: “would severely harm advertising interests, thereby jeopardizing advertising’s significant support for the content creation and distribution system for TV and cable media.”    

"The FCC’s current proposal seriously violates the copyright protections and the First Amendment rights of advertisers, content owners and program distributors,” said Dan Jaffe, Group Executive Vice President of Government Relations for ANA.  “Nothing in the initial comments filed in this proceeding provides any basis for reassurance.  The FCC’s proposal is highly flawed and would hurt consumers and have a disastrous impact on the entire marketing/media ecosystem.”    

The ANA comments raise fundamental questions about the negative impact of the FCC proposal on the role advertising plays in the entire content production and distribution ecosystem: advertisers would be unable to ensure the integrity of their ads; the proposal would cause confusion regarding offers or promotions contained in the ads by extending their distribution to regions where such offers are not available; the proposal would infringe on the advertiser’s copyrights in their ads; it would eliminate the ability of marketers to maintain ad placements; and it would rupture the privity of contract that provides essential legal protections between advertisers and multi-channel video program distributors. 

Jaffe noted, “The marketplace changes included in the Commission’s proposal would drastically undermine the advertising-based economics that currently support the creation of high-quality content for viewers on cable media.  By disrupting the content ecosystem, it threatens the investments made in advertising, programming and distribution systems.”

ANA’s comments state that by allowing the alteration of both programming and advertising, the Commission’s proposal violates the First Amendment rights of advertisers and content producers: “Advertisers have a right to truthfully and non-deceptively say (consistent with other obligations) what they wish, when they wish, and in the manner they wish.  Yet the NPRM appears to turn over that right to third parties who can manipulate advertising virtually any way they wish – or override it altogether.  Similarly, when programming is altered, the value of advertising underlying that programming is reduced.”  

Jaffe concluded, “We urge the Commission to go back to the drawing board and carefully examine the impact this proposal would have on marketers, content producers, media companies and consumers.  As currently drafted, the proposed rule is so seriously flawed it clearly will not advance the public interest.”