In a recent hearing, the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology subcommittee discussed the FCC’s oversight of broadband, sparking a contentious debate on the potential reclassification of streaming services like YouTube TV as cable TV companies.
This move is championed by local TV station owners who argue that it would level the playing field, but streaming platforms vehemently oppose it.
The debate intensified as 20 US Senators joined local TV station owners in urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to categorize streaming services such as YouTube TV, DIRECTV STREAM, and Fubo as cable TV companies.
The Preserve Viewer Choice Coalition, which includes YouTube TV and Fubo, pushed back, asserting that applying 90s-era cable regulations exceeds the FCC’s authority.
During the hearing, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers emphasized that only Congress has the authority to regulate streaming.
She cautioned against applying outdated regulations to the evolving media marketplace and expressed concern that changes to media laws should be handled by Congress, not the FCC.
McMorris Rodgers directly questioned FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on the issue.
The Chairwoman acknowledged that the FCC’s authority is constrained by the 1984 Cable Act and the 1992 Cable Act.
She highlighted the complexity of incorporating virtual service providers into existing regulations, suggesting that those advocating for FCC action should engage with Congress.
The Preserve Viewer Choice Coalition, pleased with Rosenworcel’s stance, emphasized that Congress is the only entity capable of regulating streaming video in the manner sought by large station groups.
The dispute pits streaming services against an alliance of local TV station owners forming the Coalition for Local News, advocating for cable TV-style regulations on cord-cutting services.
If the FCC agrees to change the rules, streaming services would need to negotiate directly with owners of local TV stations rather than major networks.
This shift, supported by the Coalition for Local News, comprising 600 local TV stations, could reshape how the FCC regulates live TV streaming services.
The potential change raises concerns that streaming services, forced to negotiate with individual local TV station owners, might face increased costs and administrative complexities akin to those endured by cable TV companies.
Critics argue that this could undermine the current streaming landscape that offers viewers flexibility in accessing local news through various services and subscriptions.
As the FCC has yet to decide whether to pursue changes in regulating streaming as cable TV, the industry is in a state of uncertainty.
Local broadcasters and the National Association of Broadcasters are among the groups urging the FCC to consider this appeal, while streaming services and their advocates stand firm against potential regulatory shifts.
The outcome of this ongoing debate could significantly impact the future landscape of live TV streaming services and their relationships with local TV station owners.