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FCC’s Martin: No New Regs for Net Video

Even as the commission he leads pumps out reports about the harmful effects of violence on old TV, don’t expect FCC chairman Kevin Martin to try to extend the agency’s regulatory reach to video on the Internet.

“We don’t play any role in regulating content on the internet video side,” said Martin, in a Q&A after a scheduled speaking appearance in Silicon Valley Thursday morning. While the FCC regularly draws criticism for its nanny-like tendencies, especially its fines for indecency violations, Martin said Thursday that the pick-and-choose nature that gives users control over their ‘Net video choices eliminates the need for regulatory oversight.

On the broadcast and cable front, where content regulation is part of the political-football landscape, Martin said he prefers a market-based solution that would put more control in the hands of video consumers, to help them keep harmful material from children or for paying for content they don’t want.

Martin’s idea, commonly called “a la carte” programming, could result in rules that would force cable companies to let customers pick and choose which channels they want to watch (and pay for). While cable providers have traditionally been successful in resisting implementation of such controls (claiming that bundling channels allows for more content choices), Martin said technology that allows for more selective viewing “will drive these changes, eventually.”

On the Internet, Martin said, a la carte is already there, eliminating the need for the FCC to step in since consumers already have control of what they want to watch, or pay for.

“It [Internet video] is already offered in the exact way that I was talking about that cable should be offered,” Martin said. “People go out and pick it, and bring it back into their home. They go pull it down, as opposed to it being something that’s pushed out.”