Net Affils Fret That News Will Be ‘Unflagged’


NBC and CBS affiliates are asking the Federal Communications Commission not to exempt news and public-affairs shows from the broadcast flag’s Internet copy protections for digital-TV programming.

Station owners were alarmed by a recent questionnaire sent to TV and Hollywood trade groups soliciting their opinions on various proposals for implementing the flag, which is being developed to restrict peer-to-peer file sharing and other illegal Internet transmission of copyrighted broadcast digital-TV programming.

The FCC is said to be considering the news exemption in order to allow for the freest possible dissemination of critical information. But affiliates said preventing them from limiting redistribution of the primary programming they generate themselves "would substantially gut the utility of this important technology," Roger Ogden, chairman of the NBC affiliate board, told the FCC in a letter Monday.

Such a move "will be particularly harmful to local stations that have a considerable financial stake in the integrity of their local news programming," he said, adding that protecting network news from illegal transmission is also critical to local stations’ franchises.

The networks -- which have been commenting as a team with the Motion Picture Association of America -- are still preparing their response to the FCC. An MPAA spokesman, however, said the group generally desires copy protection for all high-value programming, including news.

The FCC is expected by the end of October to require that digital-TV and storage devices be equipped to implement instructions of the flag -- a code that would be embedded in broadcast signals determining the extent to which a broadcast program may be duplicated.