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Digital TV in focus

Jan 21, 2002  •  Post A Comment

The troubled rollout of digital television will be a key concern of the Senate and House during the new congressional session beginning Jan. 23.
The growing interest in the issue reflects worries about the future of DTV, which consumers have been slow to adopt, and the fate of the estimated $70 billion worth of spectrum the government gave TV stations for the transition.
In late February, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., will hold a hearing on a draft bill that’s designed to safeguard digital TV and broadband content from copyright infringement. The measure sets encryption standards that let individual users make limited copies for personal use but which prohibit the unauthorized redistribution of content over the Web.
But equipment manufacturers have raised strong concerns about the senator’s approach.
Discussing an early draft of the bill, Gary Klein, VP of government and legal affairs at the Consumer Electronics Association, said, “It was by far one of the most overreaching and all-encompassing mandates on technology.” The senator hasn’t released the latest iteration of his draft.
Meanwhile, early in the session, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin, R-La., will hold the third meeting of his so-called DTV roundtable, an informal group made up of lawmakers, media lobbyists, executives and federal regulators.
The roundtable is designed to spur industry parties to reach agreement on a laundry list of technical and programming issues. Rep. Tauzin has threatened to offer DTV legislation by July if sufficient progress isn’t made.
At the roundtable, Rep. Tauzin will look for signs that industry participants are reaching agreement on setting copyright protection standards.
Jack Valenti, president and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, said in December that if his group and the CEA can’t make headway by mid-February, he would ask Congress or the Federal Communications Commission to intervene.