Digital-TV Group Complains About Standards

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Washington -- The group helping TV stations to make the
transition to digital is complaining about the digital-standards agreement recently
announced between the cable industry and TV-set manufacturers.

The agreement -- announced Feb. 23 by the National Cable
Television Association and the Consumer Electronics Association -- established technical
standards that will allow digital-TV sets to display cable-TV programs.

But the CEA refused to install a key connection device in
all sets and declined to support Hollywood-desired copyright-piracy protections, causing
broadcasters to complain that the most important compatibility issues had been ignored.

In a March 6 letter to Federal Communications Commission
chairman William Kennard, Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV) president
Margita White reiterated that concern.

"Frankly, the agreement breaks little new ground and
leaves unresolved the very issues that have delayed the development of cable-ready DTV
receivers and stalled the DTV transition thus far," her letter said.

When the NCTA-CEA agreement was announced, Kennard said it
would "jump-start the digital revolution for television." MSTV said
Kennard's endorsement jumped the gun.

"Sadly, the NCTA-CEA industry agreement … does
not significantly hasten the day when consumers can purchase a digital receiver and have
confidence that they will be able to seamlessly receive both digital broadcast and cable
programming," White said.

Broadcasters are spending billions of dollars on
digital-transmission facilities and programming. Cable-system compatibility is crucial to
TV stations because two-thirds of U.S. households view broadcast programming via cable.

MSTV urged Kennard to seek public comment on the NCTA-CEA
agreement, followed by rules that would impose standards that ensure compatibility and
copyright protection.

In a statement last week, NCTA spokesman David Beckwith
said MSTV's criticisms were off base and FCC intervention would delay resolution of
the connection and copyright issues.

"If you want to derail fast digital deployment,
encumbering the process in elongated government rulemaking is a good way to do it,"
Beckwith said.

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