September 5, 2007

A Look at the FCC’s Process [11:13 am]

FCC’s methods leaves public in the darkpdf

It’s odd for an agency that has the word “communications” as its middle name, but the Federal Communications Commission routinely leaves the public in the dark about how it makes critical policy decisions.

[...] On April 25, the agency issued a “notice of proposed rulemaking” that laid out the general framework for what would be included in the rules and it requested comment from interested parties.

Flash forward to July 10: In a front-page newspaper story, Martin previewed his proposal for the auction rules. He said his proposal would promote a “truly open broadband network — one that would open the door to a lot of innovative services for consumers.”

[...] FCC rules say the “content of agenda items” — such as draft proposals — are “nonpublic information” and “shall not be disclosed, directly or indirectly, to any person outside the Commission.”

Employees who break the rule can be terminated.

Martin made his media push before his proposal was circulated among the other four commissioners, a move criticized by former FCC General Counsel Henry Geller.

“In my day you couldn’t treat the other commissioners that way,” Geller said. “It’s kind of a fait accompli.”

Of course, they still have to satisfy the APA, but it’s interesting to see the public arm-twisting being played in addition to the usual processes.

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Two Snippets [7:18 am]

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NBC Finds A New Distributor [7:11 am]

Amazon head-to-head with iTunes: NBC in Deal With Amazon to Sell Shows on the Web

The media conglomerate, part of General Electric, said yesterday that Amazon had agreed to give it something that Apple would not: greater flexibility in the pricing and packaging of video downloads. As a result, NBC Universal said it had agreed to sell a wide variety of television programming on Amazon’s fledgling Unbox download service, including the drama “Heroes” and the comedies “The Office” and “30 Rock.” Episodes will be available on Unbox the day after they are shown.

While Amazon is still working to determine pricing, Unbox typically charges more for newer releases than for older ones. Unbox also gives consumers more options, including whether to rent a movie for $3.99 or buy a download for $14.99. Amazon agreed to offer promotions, including a 30 percent discount when buying full seasons of television shows.

Apple sells episodes of television shows for a flat $1.99, with movies priced at $9.99.

Last week, NBC Universal became the first television and movie company to publicly challenge Apple’s pricing as too low, saying it would not renew its contract with iTunes without a change in its pricing. Apple retaliated by saying it would not add new episodes of NBC shows to the iTunes inventory.

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