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TK's MORNING BUZZ: The Federal Communications Commission is Prepared to Lend Retailers Its Ear, but You'd Better Hurry

29 Jun, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Independent retailers like to complain nobody listens to them, nobody wants to hear about their problems.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is prepared to lend retailers its ear, but you'd better hurry.

August 3 is the deadline for retailers to furnish the federal regulatory agency with comments for its eighth annual Assessment of the Status of Competition in the Market for the Delivery of Video Programming.

Hold your horses -- the title's a bit misleading. This has nothing to do with any of the antitrust allegations litigious indie retailers in Texas and California have raised.

This is a far-reaching report, in which the FCC strives to report on the competitive environment for all video delivery, including broadcast television, satellite, cable and broadband.

In fact, in the official Notice of Inquiry, the section on "Home Video Sales and Rentals" occupies just one paragraph two-thirds of the way through.

Still, for retailers who consistently feel no one's listening to them, it is heartening to hear the FCC ask questions on such topics as who are the competitors in the market for the delivery of video programming, what are the most significant changes or developments in the market, the impact of Internet sales, the deployment movie reservation systems, cost comparisons to pay-per-view and video-on-demand, and so on.

It's a great call to action, but a call to which all too few are responding.

Last year, there were fewer than two dozen respondents, including DirecTV, AT&T, the National Association of Broadcasters, Viacom and the State of Hawaii(!).

Conspicuously absent: the VSDA or any other home video retailer or rental business, for that matter!

Retailers, where are you? Here's your chance to air your complaints, your issues, your allegations and your charges. Here's a wide-open federal ear, ready to take it all in. Here's the FCC, one of the most powerful government agencies and one retailers have been lobbying to investigate competitive practices in the home video industry, asking you for your input, and what happens?

No one even bothers to respond.

Don't you ever wonder where all those reports predicting our industry's impending demise come from? Largely from reports like this one, in which your competitors are active participants while cassette and disc vendors remain silent. No wonder there's an impression out there that you're the dinosaurs.

Fortunately, there's still time to make it into the next report. The deadline for comments is August 3. The Docket, or Proceeding, Number is 01-129. A second deadline in September was set for responses to the initial comments received.

Paper reports (the original and four copies) may be sent to the FCC's secretary, Magalie Roman Salas, at the Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th St. SW, Washington, D.C. 20554.

The notice says "comments may be filed using the Commission's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS)," but when I tried to do so I got an error message, telling me this particular issue cannot be addressed electronically.

You're welcome to try -- the Web address is www.fcc.gov/e-file/ecfs.html. But if you have e-mail you probably have a printer as well, so you might as well send your four hard copies.

Maybe if you think nobody's listening, you have only yourselves to blame.

Comments? Contact TK directly at:TKArnold@aol.com

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