LOS ANGELES – The Writers Guild of America West is backing new rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that are designed to open up competition in the set-top box marketplace. Set-top boxes are the devices that viewers must use to watch cable programming on their televisions. The current market for these devices is controlled by pay-TV distributors like Comcast, AT&T and Time Warner Cable. Almost all pay-TV subscribers rent a set-top box from their cable or satellite company, paying an average of $231 per year in rental fees. These devices are not only expensive, they are also used by pay-TV distributors to limit the programming available to viewers. In its latest filing with the FCC the Guild advocates for rules that would create a competitive device market where consumers have the power to decide what programming they want to watch. Device competition will also benefit content creators because it will make more programming available on TV sets and limit the gatekeeper power of television networks and distributors who have long controlled what content reaches consumers.
“For independent content creators, this translates into a great opportunity to reach our potential audiences because it will allow viewers to access the content of their choice – digital or traditional – from a single device that they own,” states WGAW member Ruth Livier (Ylse) in the filing. “This new democratizing distribution model is a win for the people: It empowers and motivates independents to create content, knowing there is a more equitable distribution outlet for their work, and viewers have the power of choice and the right to not be systematically overcharged by cable companies.”
In addition to Livier, showrunner Amy Berg (Caper, Da Vinci’s Demons), writer Bernie Su (Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Emma Approved, Frankenstein, MD), and writer Amy Aniobi (Awkward Black Girl, Silicon Valley) have contributed statements to the filing. Read it here.
“Today’s gatekeepers – the pay-TV distributors – control content distribution. They decide what is, and what is not, on television. Consumers and content creators alike are held captive,” said WGAW President Howard A. Rodman. “The FCC’s proposed rules open up competition. The rules would allow independent programming not sanctioned by these gatekeepers to reach more viewers more easily. Absent this FCC action, what viewers can readily see in their living rooms will be dominated, long into the future, by a very small number of very large corporations.”