John McCain Becomes Aereo’s Big Supporter

Internet television streaming service Aereo has received an unlikely ally in US Senator John McCain.

McCain last week introduced a bill that would stop television distributors from bundling unpopular channels with high demand channels. Because of parts of the bill, it has been dubbed the “Aereo provision.”

If you are unfamiliar with the platform, Aereo provides subscribers online access to live broadcast television. The company picked up over-the-air signals by using thousands of tiny antennae. The company then transmits those signals to an online DVR service that is available in large metropolitan areas.

The company was recently sued because it doesn’t pay a licensing fee to Fox, CBS, ABC, NBC, and other over-the-air broadcasters. Aereo has so far won two federal court battles in New York.

Following several court decisions, News Corp. President and COO Chase Carey threatened to make Fox TV a subscription-only service.

Responding to Fox’s threats to pull its over-the-air broadcasting, John McCain jumped in to note that Fox is only allowed to operate based on a government license. In exchange for its license, Fox must provide local news, weather, and emergency alerts to customers.

John McCain’s bill essentially says that, if Fox stops broadcasting for free, it will lose its license to air content on broadcast airwaves.

Should Fox decide to push out non-subscribers, it would leave more than 50 million people without service.

While over-the-air broadcasters continue to call the Aereo service a system of piracy, the truth is Aereo takes already free to watch signals and sends them to users over a new signal. The company charges to store a users shows on DVR, but it does not charge a per channel rate. Essentially, Aereo is like buying a DVR for your TV and then recording channels you get for free. It is that train of thought that has lobbied the court system around Aereo and against major over-the-air broadcast channels.

Do you think John McCain is right in supporting Aereo and its efforts to bring over-the-air broadcasts to a viewers computer screens?