Capital Watch


MPAA Demands Reg Changes for Cable-Ready DTVs

Various sides in the debate over standards for plug-and-play cable-ready DTV sets are asking the FCC for changes. Hollywood, represented by the Motion Picture Association of America, wants the FCC to rethink its decision not to require that sets be equipped for "selectable output controls' that would allow pay-TV providers to turn off interfaces between analog and digital devices. The rules for plug-and-play sets, issued in September, generally prohibit selectable output controls as a violation of home-recording rights. Hollywood had sought the right to control outputs on consumer devices as a way to plug the "analog hole," which lets digital content escape copy-protection restrictions by being converted to analog, which so far isn't susceptible to them, and then reconverted to digital. MPAA also asked that subscription video-on-demand be placed under the "copy never' restrictions as pay-per-view and standard video-on-demand are rather than 'copy once" as subscription VOD is now.

DirecTV also is seeking changes. Miffed that satellite-TV operators must follow plug-and-play rules despite having no role in originating the specifications, the DBS company is asking the FCC not to accept any future standards from CableLabs, the cable industry's research arm and a main developer of plug-and-play rules.

NAB's Dwight Ellis To Retire

Dwight Ellis, head of NAB's Career Center and Human Resource Development will retire next month after more than two decades with the trade group. He oversees NAB's diversity outreach program, serves as a liaison to minority and women's groups, and advocates for minority entrepreneurship in the industry.

NAB credits Ellis with helping launch scores of broadcasting careers. He also helped create NAB's Career Center, a free referral service linking broadcasters to culturally diverse, qualified job applicants. Ellis joined NAB in 1978 and was promoted to vice president in 1980. Before joining NAB, he was an administrative assistant to Rep. Cardiss Collins (D-Ill.) and producer/host of an NBC/WRC radio public-affairs program in Washington. After leaving NAB, Ellis will launch Dwight Ellis & Associates Ltd., a media- and workforce-development consulting firm.

TV Programs Prompted on Closed-Captioning Quotas

As of Jan. 1, TV broadcasters and cable channels were required to close-caption at least 1,350 hours of new English-language programming per quarter or all of their non-exempt English-language programming, whichever is less. The latest benchmark was promoted in a reminder by the FCC last week and is the last before all non-exempt English-language programming must be captioned beginning Jan. 1, 2006.

Spanish-language channels must caption at least 900 hours per quarter, stepping up to 1,350 hours of programming on Jan. 1, 2007 and to 100% in January 2010. Exemptions include most shows between 2 and 6 a.m., locally produced and distributed parades and school sports, commercials less than five minutes long, and programs in languages other than English or Spanish.

Hall of Change

Partisan shenanigans are shaking the House Commerce Committee. By switching to the GOP on Jan. 2, veteran committee Democrat Ralph Hall of Texas set off a scramble among members of his former party to bring the Democrats back up to their allotted 26 seats. Most likely to get the spot, says a Washington source, are Texas Democrats whose jobs have been put at risk by federal judges' approval last week of new GOP-favoring political districts in the Lone Star state. Commerce Committee would be a plum assignment for one of the at-risk Democrats because members of the influential panel are frequent recipients of corporate campaign contributions.