Digital deadline delay


Washington communications attorney and former FCC Chairman Richard Wiley said it is unlikely that broadcasters will meet the 2006 deadline for converting their stations to digital and turning back their analog spectrum to the government.

"I think it's highly problematic," Wiley told those attending The Big Picture media conference in New York Tuesday. He cited standards issues, less-than-ideal quality and consumer resistance to buying the required TV receivers, copyright issues, and the ongoing haggling between broadcasters and cablecasters over interoperability and carriage issues.

But perhaps the biggest issue, Wiley said, is the lack of compelling programming to drive set sales. Sony Corp. of America President Howard Stringer said viewers will buy more sets as more manufacturers introduce receivers that combine tuners and decoders into a single unit. Sony is introducing several such models this year, he said.

NBC President Bob Wright said a lot of issues need sorting out and that will just take time. "It's not going to come together quickly." Viewers "won't spend $2,000 to use a set of rabbit ears," he said, referring to the cable issues. "It's going to have to settle out. It's not there at all."