Affiliates of the Big Four networks don't want cable systems to be allowed to convert their HDTV signals to standard definition signals.
A Senate bill rewriting communications law would allow cable systems, through 2014, to convert digital signals to analog for their analog customers and HDTV to DTV for their digital subs.
In a letter to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) Friday, the stations called for changes to the bill.
Stations are fine with the first part of that equation because, they say, it "protects against the disenfranchisement of viewers with analog receivers."
Downconverting HD to DTV is, by contrast, consumer unfriendly, they argue, because "it condones viewer disenfranchisement from HDTV services."
Allowing cable to "degrade" HDTV, they argue, would disenfranchise viewers who have bought HDTV sets to be able to watch the Super Bowl, NASCAR or other programs in high-def.
Besides, they say, cable would have the incentive to favor its own HDTV programming, which it could supply without degradation while converting the services of the networks or stations.
The affiliate groups want the chairman to either drop both conversion provisions and deal with the issue in a bill next session, or drop the HDTV conversion provision only.
They said their focus on conversion should not indicate they don't have other issues with the bill. They do, including its permitting unlicensed wireless devices to operate in broadcast spectrum and "broad" exceptions to the broadcast flag content protection technology that the bill would also approve.