FCC Chairman Michael Powell came to Hollywood Friday pitching his deregulatory views of the TV industry and prodding studios to produce some compelling programming to help drive the digital conversion.
On the receiving end were top TV executives from Viacom, News Corp., Disney and others, who filled a Hollywood Radio and Television Society luncheon Friday in Beverly Hills.
Powell suggested that the role of programming in driving DTV interest is crucial: "I think the government and the broadcasters made a big mistake when they minted this industrial policy around digital television and presumed that all it implicated was a distribution side of the model. Broadcasters convert their towers, buy new cameras, pay the higher power bill and get these immediate better pitcures and consumers will love it. We forgot that those who will love it will have to love it enough to buy a $3,000 new TV to watch it and I don't really want to see The Brady Bunch in high definition TV. Marcia's nose was bad enough the first time around."
Powell said it's up to the TV industry's creative community to "paint different pictures, you have 20,000 more colors on the palette" to fill up the wider digital picture and make it something consumers will want.
"The regulatory framework for TV right now is heavily built on textbook premises of 30 and 40 years ago," Powell told Hollywood's elite. "A lot of these rules we have proposed for examination were minted when I was two or three years old and I think its high-time that one examines them in the context of the extraordinary changes that have taken place in the market, some of these rules have their genesis at a time when cable didn't even exist, let alone DBS, the Internet or Blockbuster Video."
Asked if Viacom's Mel Karmazin could, theoretically, buy NBC, Powell responded, "Nothing is unthinkable.if Mel Karmazin wants to try and slide NBC by me, he can try."
- Joe Schlosser