Barry Diller, Arguing for Online Content Distribution, Calls for Rewrite of Communications Act Bloomberg

Longtime media executive Barry Diller, testifying Tuesday before the Senate Commerce Committee, called for a rewrite of the Communications Act of 1996, Bloomberg reports.

Diller, who created both the Fox Broadcasting Company and USA Broadcasting, is now involved in online distribution of television programming as the chairman and senior executive of IAC/InterActiveCorp. He urged lawmakers to rewrite the laws governing communications to reflect a new media landscape in which the lines have been blurred among broadcast, cable and Internet distribution, the story says.

The story reports: “Diller has invested in closely held Aereo Inc., a service based in Long Island City, New York, that lets users access broadcast TV on mobile devices for $12 a month. The service is delivered via quarter-inch antennas placed in data centers. The technology uses existing broadcasting signals, letting consumers bypass cable or satellite providers.”

Diller has been pushing the Aereo distribution model, knowing it would spark a legal fight with traditional media outlets, as previously reported. And it has, with New York TV stations among the first to challenge the arrangement -- sparking a counterclaim by Diller, as we reported last month.

Bloomberg reports: “Walt Disney Co.’s ABC and other networks said in two complaints filed March 1 in federal court in Manhattan that Aereo has no right to any of the programs that it offers through its subscription-only Internet service. Aereo has said its service is lawful and called the lawsuits ‘meritless.’”

Along with Diller, executives from Microsoft Corp. and were among those invited to testify before the Senate panel to discuss how technology -- particularly the Internet -- is changing television viewing.

Calling online video a “disruptive technology,” panel Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said the rapid evolution of the communications business “will require legislation,” but added that no update of telecommunications legislation will pass this year, the Bloomberg story reports.

“It’s not a simple business,” said Rockefeller, noting that multiple devices and networks are involved. “It raises a lot of questions which we’re not able to legislatively answer at this point.”

“We’re paying for so many channels, though we usually only watch a few,” Rockefeller added. “So I want to know if the emergence of online video will do more than improve content and expand choice. I want to know if it’s going to bring a halt to, or at least a slowdown, to escalating bills” for cable and satellite, the story reports.