Powell: Self-interest is the key

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Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell said he won't need to flex any regulatory muscle
with long-cantankerous industry segments to get them to go along with his plan to
push the digital-TV transition. Self-interest will do nicely, thank you.

"All of them have something to gain," Powell told reporters after an NAB 2002
breakfast Tuesday. "Sometimes all you need is leadership. It's like any
negotiation."

Make no mistake, however: Powell said he doesn't intend to let the plan fade
from the scene.

"This transition is not just important to broadcasting. It's important to
America, and it's been languishing for far too long," he said during a question-and-answer session
with ABC News anchor Sam Donaldson.

Last week, Powell proposed a four-point plan setting specific levels of
digital service for broadcasters, cable, direct-broadcast satellite and TV-set manufacturers.
Compliance is voluntary, but Powell will call in leaders from each sector in the
coming weeks to get commitments.

"Every one of those segments has to step up to the plate and do things they
don't like and do some things they will like. I personally think we're
close," he added.

Although industry officials have speculated that Powell will hold out the
threat of tougher laws or regulations to get everybody on board, he insisted that
there will be no swinging of the bureaucratic club.

"This is completely voluntary," he said.

Powell said industries' long-standing reluctance to take on new obligations
is quickly eroding. It's "simply not true" that the parties are unwilling to go
along he added.

Still the threat of government-enforced mandates remains, even if they won't
be directed at uncooperative parties. "There's always the threat of tougher
rules," Powell conceded. "We're regulators."

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