All Articles Tagged "FCC"
With Maurita Coley, there is a special opportunity to look at a unique intersection of government policy and technology through a legal standpoint that is quite sensitive to the demographic of color in the country. Coley, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Washington, D.C.-based Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC), knows that the fight for balance and justice, as it pertains to the tech space, is only just beginning.
Through the work at MMTC, you could end up with a more fair price in your phone data charges, make certain that your cousins in rural areas have Internet access and much more. I’ve known Maurita for some time, but I’d like to now take you inside her world.
Current Occupation: Chief Operating Officer, Minority Media and Telecommunications Council
Favorite read: This is harder than asking me my favorite film! Reading is my favorite thing to do next to writing, although I do not have much time to do either right now. But if I had to pick one, I’d say The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho, a charming parable about life.
Recent read: I read multiple books at the same time. Right now I’m reading: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color-Blindness by Michelle Alexander; Blueprint for Black Economic Empowerment: A Moral, Political, and Economic Imperative for the Twenty-First Century, by Amos Wilson, Ph.D; Science of Being Great by Wallace D. Wattles; and The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson.
2013′s ultimate goal: Find the bend in the time continuum because there is so much I want to do. I’d like to create jobs and business opportunities for at least 10 people or businesses, then another 10, and so on. In 2013, I’ll also dust off, finish, and sell my novel.
Quote Governing Your Mission or a Quote that Inspires You: I have both. My personal mission statement probably explains my somewhat diverse career (diverse for a lawyer): “I initiate and promote ideas that snatch people out of darkness.”
As for a quote that inspires me… probably one of my favorite quotes by Charles Hamilton Houston, former dean of Howard University’s School of Law during the 1930s: “A lawyer’s either a social engineer or … a parasite on society … A social engineer [is] a highly skilled, perceptive, sensitive lawyer who [understands] the Constitution of the United States and [knows] how to explore its uses in the solving of problems of local communities and in bettering conditions of the underprivileged citizens.”
But recently I heard Dr. Maya Angelou say these amazing words on humanity and philanthropy: “In choosing how to live our lives, we must remember that some of us were born with a silver spoon, while others were born with a spoon with holes in it when it’s raining soup.”
Twitter handle: @MauritaColey
Madame Noire: How did you select Georgetown and what led to your interest in law?
Maurita Coley: I have been in Washington on and off since 1978, but I am born and bred in Detroit. I came to Washington as a Michigan State University senior and did my final semester as an extern with The Washington Center. My assignment for the semester was a journalism externship with The Washington Monthly Magazine. Denise Barton, a Georgetown Law student and a dear friend and mentor from MSU, let me sleep on her sofa bed for the semester (the externship was unpaid). She and her law school study partners were often at the apartment studying, and they all took me under their collective wings. But once they learned that I wanted to be a writer, they convinced me I should go to law school so I could get better writing assignments, such as the White House beat. I never went back to journalism, but at my core, I’m really a writer-advocate more than a traditional lawyer.
MN: Loving that term, “writer-advocate”! So I know one of your first main gigs was working in legal at BET. How did you get your position at the company?
MC: I was one of BET’s outside counsel – back then I was a young partner at the Cole Raywid & Braverman (now Davis Wright Tremaine) law firm, a prominent cable television boutique law firm. I was BET’s communications counsel, but whenever Debi Lee, BET’s then-General Counsel (now CEO) called me, I tried to help resolve whatever problems they threw my way – communications or not. My partners at Cole Raywid were very entrepreneurial and even owned and built the cable system in Loudon County, VA.
Our clients were primarily small independent operators and programmers in the cable television and satellite communications businesses, giving us a lot of hands-on business experience in the industry. By working directly with entrepreneurs, I learned early in my career that legal problems usually have a business solution that’s better than the legal solution.
Bob Johnson, BET’s Founder and CEO, identified lawyers as either “deal-makers or deal-breakers,” so I’m happy that Bob and Debi apparently saw me as a deal-maker because, after two years in the legal department, they moved me to a business position – Senior VP of Network Operations and Programming – the number two person in charge of all BET’s production and programming operations. I had known both Bob and Debi before I joined them at BET. When BET went public, Debi Lee’s responsibilities as General Counsel increased exponentially, plus she was the publisher of BET’s magazines, Emerge, and YSB, so she needed help. I went in-house as her Senior Vice President, Legal Affairs.
I thought I was just going over to “help out” for a while, but I stayed on the BET management team for six years. BET was at once the most rewarding and probably the most challenging position of my career. I’d never worked for a minority-owned and controlled company. It was a beautiful experience. I worked hard and was able to see the fruits of my labors on an almost instantaneous basis.
Many viewers will soon be paying more for basic cable service. “Under a recent Federal Communications Commission rule change effective Dec. 10, millions of television owners who do not currently have a cable box will have to get one for every set, according to public service consumer resource guide Consumer World,” says the Huffington Post. This may also mean an additional monthly rental fee in order to access cable for some consumers.
Local cable TV operators can now scramble their signals, which means a set-top box will be required on every TV to view programs, reports HuffPo. And according to Consumer World, those boxes cost around $10 each per month.
Although cable will now cost users more, according to the FCC, the new rule will benefit consumers, not harm them. “By allowing cable operators to encrypt the basic service and require a cable box, cable services can now be activated and deactivated remotely rather than requiring a house call, according to the government agency,” writes the Huffington Post.
The measure will negatively affect “a small number of cable subscribers who use basic service without using a set-top box or other equipment,” admits the FCC.
The FCC will also now require cable operators to give two free convertor boxes to customers who have only basic service and one free convertor box to customers using higher tiers of service for two years. This will offset the price of the new required boxes. “After that, customers will be required to rent or buy boxes of their own,” explains the news site.
Cable has already increased over the past decade. The average cable TV subscriber paid close to three times as much for cable in 2011 than in 2001 – an increase in price, from about $48 a month to $128. More and more African Americans are watching cable as we reported, with popular shows on VH1, BET, and ESPN taking the top ratings. This upward trend in black cable viewing could be disrupted by the new charge. It’s already facing competition from TV on-demand offerings.
British TV is already racy by American standards. Now an organization, Britain’s Commercial Broadcasters’ Association (COBRA), which represents such TV network operators as BSkyB, UKTV and MTV, wants the U.K. government to change rules to allow programs with adult content or swearing to be available on cable and satellite channels at all times. COBRA says there would be safeguards to keep such content from children, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
It got us to wondering if the U.S. would ever consider such a move. Currently, under FCC rules it is against federal law “to air obscene programming at any time. It is also a violation of federal law to air indecent programming or profane language during certain hours.”
But more adult programming could boost ratings—look how many people tune in regularly to cable stations such as AMC, Showtime, and HBO who show more adult programming, many of which have won Emmy Awards. So, obviously there is an appetite for more adult shows.
So if you could watch Game of Thrones on network TV, would you?
by Cynthia Wright
A federal judge signed off on a deal that allows Comcast to merge with NBC Universal on Thursday. Earlier this year, Comcast took 51 percent control of NBC Universal, after they paid General Electric Co. $6.2 billion and contributing channels $7.25 billion. Judge Richard Leon, who has been extremely critical of the $30 billion takeover also added reporting requirements, forcing the newly formed company to discuss any arbitration concerns by online video distributors with the court.
The added stipulation stems from online video distributors being concerned that they wouldn’t be able to access videos owned by NBC, since Comcast would now be the owner. However, with Leon’s ruling in place, distributors are allowed to enter a claim if they feel they are being “improperly” denied content.
“It is undisputed that neither the FCC nor the Department of Justice has any experience yet in administering either course of arbitration in the online-video-distribution context,” the 8-page document details.
In order to assure that Comcast follows through with the agreement, both the Justice Department and Comcast will have to make detailed reports explaining all arbitration complaints from video distributors. This report will then become one of the focal points of the yearly hearing between the courts and Comcast.
“’I am not completely certain that these safeguards, alone, will sufficiently protect the public interest in the years ahead. Since neither the court nor the parties has a crystal ball to forecast’ the effectiveness of the final judgment, the additional steps are necessary to protect the public interest”, Leon commented.
Another condition that was enforced was Comcast giving up their small stake in Hulu, causing them to lose all decision-making power in the video site. At the same time, with Hulu (along with Netflix) using a sizeable amount of NBC programming – how their relationship will fair after this merger, is to be determined.
It also doesn’t help, that Comcast has been portrayed negatively in the media a lot lately. The most recent development involves Verizon going to the Council of Better Business Bureaus’ National Advertising Division, due to Comcast’s advertising claims that Xfinity was superior over Verizon FIOS. After NAD’s investigation, it was discovered that Comcast’s claims were either “inaccurate or insufficiently supported”.
Whether this taints Comcast’s credibility factor, remains to be seen. The case is U.S. v. Comcast, 11-cv-00106, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington). The final judgment is set to expire in seven years.
Cynthia Wright is an avid lover of all things geeky. When she isn’t freelancing, she can be found on her blog BGA Life and on Twitter at @cynisright.
(Wall Street Journal) — The Obama administration on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to reinstate the Federal Communications Commission’s ability to fine broadcasters for airing indecent words or images, setting up a potential First Amendment showdown at the high court. The Justice Department wants the high court to review lower-court decisions that have challenged the FCC’s ability to police airwaves. If accepted for review, the case could be a significant test of the government’s ability to police what is said on radio and television broadcasts. Last July, a three-judge panel of the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said the FCC’s indecency policies were “unconstitutionally vague, creating a chilling effect that goes far beyond the fleeting expletives at issue here,” and violated the First Amendment.
(Chicago Sun Times) — What do the Congressional Black Caucus and AT&T have in common? And I don’t mean Common, Chicago’s hometown rapper. They share an “interest” in expanding broadband access and diminishing the nation’s digital divide. Last week, AT&T and T-Mobile announced a proposed $39 billion merger that would create a telecommunications company with nearly 130 million subscribers. If the new combine passes muster with federal regulators, it will become the nation’s No. 1 service provider. No! howled Free Press, a non-profit that lobbies for a more democratic media. The group argues that the merger would erode competition, punish consumers and kill jobs. Yes! cheered the Wall Street Journal, claiming the deal would inspire innovation and fertilize America’s communications landscape with an explosion of new options. Is it a devil of a deal, or a deal with the devil? Either way, if the omnivorous AT&T wants to gobble up T-Mobile, it should include a little healthy altruism in its diet. Universal and cheap broadband would help.
(The Hill) — A prominent member of the Congressional Black Caucus said Thursday that he’s tired of the Federal Communications Commission’s lack of progress on civil rights issues. “To date, I have been grossly underwhelmed by the lip-service and platitudes I have heard from this Commission regarding the importance of concluding Commission proceedings, studies, and reports that can dramatically affect the fortunes of minority viewers, listeners, new market entrants, established businesses, and entrepreneurs,” Rush said. ”Their words aren’t matching up with their actions.”
Rush’s comments come one day after the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council joined more than twenty other civil rights advocacy groups including the NAACP in criticizing the FCC for failing to act on issues of critical to minority representation in the media. When asked for a reply, FCC spokesman Robert Kenny referred Hillicon Valley to his initial response to the group’s letter, where he referenced the minority ownership conditions attached by the Commission to the Comcast-NBC Universal and Sirius-IM mergers.
(The Network Journal) — The lack of women and minority representation in broadcast media has been an ongoing problem and now the Rev. Jesse Jackson aims to put an end to it. Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH along with nearly two dozen other groups have called on the FCC to release data on how many women and minorities own broadcast outlets. But according to the FCC, such information is not easy to come by.
And urban politics and political expert Dr. Evelyn “Doc” Bethune (and granddaughter of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune) isn´t sure just how much of a difference Jackson´s latest campaign will make. “Operation Push can only do so much. Without the support of the people, they are crying out in the wilderness,” she notes. “Most of the leadership in our communities only come to the people when they are trying to move their own agendas forward. There is very little on going dialogue and few strategy sessions. Black people are at war in our own country but we don’t know it.”
Look around. While all our tech gadgets may have us enthralled, recent stats from the Pew Research Center show that TV is still a dominant media force among young African-Americans. No doubt, we’re media-meshing: flat screen on, while laptop is open nearby, cell phone at-the-ready, maybe even recording one program to watch on schedule while watching another in real time. Being so “plugged in” means that you always know what’s up. But just how much might we risk missing in this country when it comes to the convergence of images and technology?
While, thankfully, we don’t have to deal with the jammed satellite TV broadcasts Iran implemented as it experiences the domino effect of revolution this week in the Middle East, we should all be aware of the fact that image, when combined with commerce and influence, makes for some interesting power plays. But the question is: just who is the pawn? Typically it’s the average consumer, so here’s something we should all be up on.
Behind the scenes at the Federal Communications Commission ( the entity which essentially governs our airwaves), a stealth battle is being waged over the future of television and the convergence of technology. The FCC is trying to set limits regarding devices like Google TV to access pay TV content and reconfigure into images that will work with both television and the Internet. The proposal is called AllVid system, and Google is definitely carrying the flag for such policy. AllVid doesn’t exist yet, but here’s the concept: to make mandatory an industry-wide tech piece that you could plug into your broadband router and connect to your cable TV provider, then watch all the online video and pay channels you want via a variety of AllVid-type gadgets. Hot, right? But your cable provider really hates the proposal, because it would create mad competition to their services for which you are already paying a ton. Word is that HBO and the NBA are already on board with Google, but the other networks, not so much.
It’s interesting how these companies make such moves without consulting the very consumers who enable them to become the financial behemoths they are. Look, for example, at what the National Coalition of African-American Owned Media (NAACOM) says regarding Comcast (should you be one of the many millions in this country under their cable jurisdiction): African American subscribers make up approximately 40% of Comcast’s $36 billion annual revenue, representing $15 billion annually. That’s an awful lot of chips.
The question that, particularly young, digitally savvy African-Americans might want to ask themselves is if it’s okay for our voices not to be heard, considering that our household monthly bills will be affected? Do you want more images that reflect you if you have to pay that much? Maybe it’s time to get acquainted with a sister who is a Commissioner on the FCC named Mignon Clyburn. What’s another email in the sea of communications you transmit each day? Something tells me this generation may end up being more vocal about these issues than the last.
Just some food for thought.
Lauren DeLisa Coleman is a writer, host and thought-leader specializing in the diverse segment of the Gen Y demo, tech and its convergence with socio-economic concerns. She is also the CEO and founder of Punch Media Group, an edgy digital media and entertainment company which develops pop culture experience and branding strategy across digital platforms. Follow her @mediaempress
(Wall Street Journal) — In a contentious hearing, House Republicans attacked new regulations for broadband Internet lines and criticized the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission for adopting them. Republicans are targeting the “net neutrality” rules, which would bar Internet providers from blocking or slowing Internet traffic and services, as well as new regulations in such areas as health care and the environment, as unnecessary and overly burdensome on industry.
“Why would you put the government in charge of the Internet?” asked Rep. Fred Upton (R., Mich.), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat, defended the new rules during the hearing, saying the FCC “did the right thing” and that it is “pro-job and pro-investment” for the U.S. economy. Democratic lawmakers on the panel also defended Mr. Genachowski. Sveral said the FCC hadn’t gone far enough in regulating Internet lines. They said the agency should have more firmly established its authority to play Internet traffic cop by reregulating Internet lines under rules designed for land-line phones.