Barry Diller blasts networks, Obama Administration for opposing Aereo

By Daniel Levine,

Billionaire Barry Diller, who is one of the backers of Aereo, blasted the broadcast networks and the Obama Administration to the new technology in an opinion piece published just before the case heads to the Supreme Court.

ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox have all criticized the service, which allows users to stream over-the-air transmissions online for as low as $8 a month. The networks say that this is a violation of copyrights, since Aereo isn’t paying the same high retransmission fees that the cable and satellite providers do. Oral arguments in the case begin on Tuesday. The Obama Administration also said that it agrees with the networks in a friend of court brief last month.

In his Wall Street Journal piece, Diller criticized the Obama Administration and the networks for forgetting a 100-year-old agreement that gave the networks free access to airwaves if they provided the free, ad-supported content. Now, though, the networks reap the rewards of huge fees from cable and satellite, which they now want the public to use almost exclusively to gain access to their content.

He said that Aereo’s use of modern technology to give wider access to these free airwaves isn’t piracy, as the networks claim.

“Broadcasters make more money when consumers are steered away from over-the-air program delivery and toward cable and satellite systems that pay the broadcasters retransmission fees,” Diller wrote. “There's nothing wrong with that. But it seems rich for them to forget the agreement they made to provide television to the consumer in return for the spectrum that enables their business.”

Diller wrote that he could not understand why the administration was siding with the networks when it has tried to promote innovation in the past. “In siding with the broadcasters, the administration has signaled that the preservation of legacy business models takes precedence over lawful technological innovation,” Diller noted.

Aereo also launched its own site this week to give subscribers an explanation of its technology and why it is legal.

The Supreme Court vote can also no longer end in a tie, since Justice Samuel Alito will consider the case after previously recusing himself.

 
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