Frustrated by the foot-dragging in some industry sectors, Federal
Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell is preparing to impose
digital copy-protection and television-receiver requirements in order to break
logjams believed to be stalling the switch from analog- to digital-television
Powell's plans to solve intraindustry disputes over the technology are sure
to provoke intense lobbying and court battles during the next few months.
The copy-protection mandate would be proposed at the FCC's Aug. 8 meeting
and, if approved, put in place early next year.
The proposal would seek public comment on a broad range of issues, including
whether the commission has the authority to impose a copy-protection regime and whether the
mandate should include a "broadcast flag" that could limit copying of some
programming aired by broadcast-TV stations.
Details of the proposal are still in the works, and it could be
delayed until a later meeting.
Sources said the FCC initiative has the approval of House Commerce Committee
chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.), who is drafting sweeping digital-TV legislation that
would resolve copy protection and other technical disputes that have helped
to stall the transition to all-digital-TV transmissions. Various industry parties
failed to meet Tauzin's July 15 deadline for settling copy-protection
Broadcasters have insisted that copy-protection measures block unauthorized
duplication of their programming. They said over-the-air television will be
doomed in the digital age without the protections because they will not be
permitted to air first-run movies and other high-quality content unless they can
ensure that the programs won't be reproduced and streamed over the Internet.
The cable industry and movie studios have been reluctant to include
broadcasters in copy-protection standards, complaining that the requirements for
stopping free over-the-air programming are too complex.
The consumer-electronics industry has opposed both broadcast and cable copy-protection measures, predicting that the measures will violate home recording
In another move sure to anger set-makers, the FCC is said to be putting the
final touches on a requirement to put digital tuners in nearly all television
sets by December 2006.
Powell last month publicly rebuked the Consumer Electronics Association for
rejecting his call for a voluntary phase-in of digital-TV tuners.
The CEA has vowed to fight any digital-TV-tuner mandate in court.