Super Bowl prompts DTV skirmish


Apparently setting aside their meeting in New York last month to find common
ground on digital-television-channel carriage, broadcasters and cable-industry
officials have returned to accusing each other of keeping the digital-TV-transition
glass half-empty.

The National Association of Broadcasters started the squabbling Monday
morning by issuing a press release blaming cable systems across the country for
failing to deliver the ABC stations' high-definition Super Bowl feed.

Viewers in 64 of 80 markets where broadcasters offer digital signals were
unable to get the programming from their local cable systems, the NAB complained.

"It's disappointing that cable-TV operators are continuing to block viewer
access to digital and HDTV programming delivered by local broadcasters," NAB president Eddie Fritts said. "One would think cable operators would want to
provide their customers with access to broadcast HDTV programming like the Super
Bowl, which, year in and year out, is the country's most-watched program."

The sniping did not go unanswered.

"Cable was pleased to make available this year's Super Bowl in HDTV to
millions of customers," National Cable & Telecommunications Association attorney
Daniel Brenner said in a response later that day. "We regret that many stations have
rejected the guidance of FCC [Federal Communications Commission] chairman [Michael] Powell so that cable could regularly
offer ABC HD broadcasts without charging an additional fee. Even more
regrettable is the failure of other ABC stations, serving more than 30 percent
of TV households, to offer any HDTV, months after an FCC deadline, so fans could
view the game via an antenna. Instead, the free spectrum given to these
broadcasters for digital spectaculars like the Super Bowl remains