TiVo at risk? Company hires ex-senator to lobby

Tivo has hired former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) to lobby on an expiring television law.

The former three-term senator is now a senior policy adviser at Arent Fox, and is focusing his attention for the video recording company on a legal provision requiring a specific decryption technology in all cable boxes, according to a new lobbying disclosure form

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The provision exists under current law and has been critical for companies like TiVo, it says, by preventing cable companies from using their own methods to encrypt the incoming signal to televisions. TiVo has worried that dropping the current standard without replacing it with something else could lock it and other third-party set-top box providers out of the market.

In the Senate, lawmakers are trying to drop the existing standard in an otherwise largely uncontroversial satellite TV bill.

In September, TiVo said it was “strongly opposed” to the “anti-consumer” set-top box provision in the Senate’s Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA).

TiVo hired Dorgan the same day the draft Senate bill became public, in mid-September.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has pledged to introduce an amendment keeping the current standard in place once STAVRA heads to the Senate floor last this year, and the issue could turn into a headache for Senate leaders.

STAVRA reauthorizes a satellite TV bill that expires at the end of the year. It is one of the few “must-pass” pieces of legislation heading into the lame-duck window, because failing to reauthorize the law could leave more than a million people without access to broadcast channels such as CBS or NBC.

TiVo isn’t the only one targeting the bill.

21st Century Fox, the media giant that owns Fox and its suite of channels, hired the Wiley Rein firm to lobby on the law’s reauthorization as well as the House’s broader attempt to rewrite the foundational 1996 Telecommunications Act, which laws out rules for TV, phone, radio and Internet service.