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I have worked in the television business for almost sixteen years – a time of breakneck change that has seen us go from clunky cabinets to digital flat screens and from Rosanne to Jane the Virgin.

Mario Solis Marich: Channels – including those catering to audiences from racial and ethnic minority communities – could be dropped or buried at the far end of the digital dial, making it harder for loyal audiences to find the independent shows they love. AllVid

AllVid Rules: Keeping Diverse Programs Out in the Cold—Mario Solis Marich

When I first started at LATV, I was part of the first bi-lingual and bi-cultural station targeted at Latinos. At that time, quality shows celebrating Latino families were few and far between; today we have proven that entire networks telling stories of, by, and for the Latino audience, can thrive.

This broadening diversity of programming has been accelerated by the tsunami of innovation that is sweeping over the consumer video marketplace. The huge array of options from traditional cable, satellite, and telecom providers to “over the top” disruptors like Hulu, Netflix, and SlingTV have created new opportunities for entrepreneurs to tell diverse stores and reach targeted audiences.

Channels – including those catering to audiences from racial and ethnic minority communities – could be dropped or buried at the far end of the digital dial, making it harder for loyal audiences to find the independent shows they love.

But instead of celebrating this innovation and diversity, some tech industry special interests are pressing the FCC to pass stifling new rules that would stop this progress in its tracks, by threatening the foundations that makes this rich and vital medium work.

These “AllVid” rules would force TV distributors to “unbundle” their video streams and give any tech company the right to freely repackage this content through their own competing services and devices.

Channels – including those catering to audiences from racial and ethnic minority communities – could be dropped or buried at the far end of the digital dial, making it harder for loyal audiences to find the independent shows they love.

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Upending the TV ecosystem would squeeze the entrepreneurs trying to create new platforms, with smaller networks catering to diverse audiences being most at risk. It is an old story – innovators and marginalized communities create something of value, and then big incumbents stomp in and skim the value for themselves.

AllVid’s supporters argue the rule is needed to create more consumer choice in the marketplace for video devices. But the video device market is already booming – go to a Best Buy and try and choose between TiVo, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku and others – and the rate of innovation and competition is only speeding up.

This atmosphere of innovation and disruption is creating more opportunities for content creators – and especially for female and minority entrepreneurs working to launch new platforms and reach audiences hungry for high-quality, relatable shows. Building a media business from the ground up is still a grinding, grueling process fraught with risk, but the explosion of new services and delivery channels is opening the door wider than ever before.

But AllVid would put that all at risk. Do we really want federal regulators to wade into a market that is evolving so quickly, and producing such an unprecedented volume of quality and choice for consumers, just so that massive tech companies can pad their bottom lines even further?

As Vice-President of a growing television network, I have great respect for Google and Amazon and the thriving, dynamic businesses they’ve built. But asking the FCC’s blessing for such a brazen money grab is a step too far. If they want access to the programming minority programmers create, they should sit down and negotiate a deal, not ask federal regulators for special favors or forced mandates that would require us to hand over our work without being paid.

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The progress we’ve made over the past generation diversifying America’s media landscape is inspiring, but AllVid could stop this progress in its tracks. The FCC should have the good sense to reject this flawed proposal.

Mario Solis Marich

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