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Martin: Wider rights for digital b'casters - Broadcasting & Cable

Martin: Wider rights for digital b'casters

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Federal Communications Commission member Kevin Martin Friday called on his
colleagues to consider expanding cable-carriage rights for broadcasters' digital
signals.

In a speech to the Federal Communications Bar Association, he said tentative
definitions for what constitutes 'program-related' material and 'primary video'
signals that must be carried by cable may need to be widened to ensure that
viewers can access broadcast electronic program guides and multicast
signals.

'Whether that argument should ultimately carry the day, I'm not sure, but the
potential benefits of such broad interpretation warrant commission
consideration,' Martin said.

Previous FCC decisions have cast doubt on commissioners' willingness to
require carriage of any content beyond the one primary channel of any
station.

Martin also called on industry groups to resolve lingering disputes over
copy-protection requirements and cable-interoperability standards. 'If they are
not resolved soon, the commission may need to be more directly involved,' he
added.

Despite the cautionary message, Martin's speech had a lighthearted tone. He
addressed several major telecommunications issues with a slide presentation
themed, 'All I need to know to be an FCC commissioner I learned in
kindergarten.'

Digital TV fell under the heading, 'Put things back where you found them' --
a reference to broadcasters' obligation to one day return their analog
spectrum.

Martin also noted that his youthful visage resembles kids' story hero Harry
Potter. 'My problem is not that I look younger than most, but that I don't look
as old as I am,' the baby-faced 35-year-old commissioner said.

He also compared the commission lineup to the characters in Shrek,
with FCC chairman Michael Powell bearing resemblance to the green main
character, Kathleen Abernathy to Fiona and Michael Copps to Lord Farquaad,
leaving Martin himself as the loudmouthed ass.

'Maybe the Harry Potter comparison wasn't so bad after all,' he said after
getting a big laugh from the crowd.

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