Black lawmaker questions Obama set-top box endorsement

One member of the Congressional Black Caucus expressed surprise Friday that she and other members were not consulted before President Obama came out strongly in favor of a proposal to open up the cable set-top box market. 

Rep. Yvette ClarkeYvette Diane ClarkeDemocrats demand FCC act over leak of phone location data Hillicon Valley: Google buying Fitbit for .1B | US launches national security review of TikTok | Twitter shakes up fight over political ads | Dems push committee on 'revenge porn' law Booker introduces bill banning facial recognition tech in public housing MORE (D-N.Y.), who spearheaded a letter expressing concern about the Federal Communications Commission proposal, wants to know who advised the president on the issue


"I really have no idea," she told The Hill. "Again, I don't know what his motivation was. I'd like to have a conversation with whomever in his office advised him of that, or perhaps he's had his own conversations."

Clarke, also a member of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Communications and Technology, said there was no outreach to the more than two dozen Black Caucus members who had previously expressed concern that the plan could harm minority programming.

"There was no communication with me or any other member that I'm aware of who has expressed publicly their concerns about this. So I'd like to find out a bit more about what motivated him," Clarke said.

When asked if it seemed strange that the caucus was not consulted, she said, "It does. It does. It does."

In February, the FCC approved a proposal that would require cable and satellite providers to hand over some of their programming information to third parties who want to create their own set-top boxes, which help people navigate TV channels. Final rules would have to be approved before the plan is implemented. 

The industry is currently dominated by the cable and satellite companies themselves, which generally rent out their set-top boxes for a monthly fee to subscribers. Companies like Google and Tivo have supported the change, but the cable industry has resisted it. 

"The sort of the cable or satellite box is just one example of an area where because it has been tied to the provider and you rent it, and consumers spend billions of dollars on this every year, there hasn't been much innovation," Obama told Yahoo on Friday, while unveiling a broader executive action. 

But the proposal has not won complete buy-in from Democrats. 

In December, before the proposal was released, the Congressional Black Caucus said the reported plan could be a "disaster for consumers and minority voices" because third parties might not give minority channels good placement in the new setup. They also expressed privacy concerns. 

"I'm concerned that sort of creating a whole other gadget to disseminate content will disrupt and harm those new business, those emerging businesses, that provide communication opportunities for people of color," Clarke said Friday. 

She added: "You know, it is not as though the tech industry is a bastion of diversity. So I would like to drill down a bit more to study what the impact will be."

— Updated 2:45 p.m.