TV Stations Question Powell DTV Plan

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The owners of nearly 100 TV stations are complaining that a new digital-TV
plan backed by Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell goes
too easy on the cable and direct-broadcast satellite industries.

The stations are upset because cable and DBS can meet their
high-definition-TV quotas in the Powell plan without carrying any broadcast HDTV
programming.

'A major shortcoming of the proposal,' the stations said in an April 18
letter to Powell, 'is that it would permit cable operators and satellite
providers to use nonbroadcast programming services to meet the digital-carriage
benchmarks you laid out.'

Among those who signed the letter were K. James Yager, president and CEO of
Benedek Broadcasting Corp.; Gary Chapman, president and CEO of LIN Television
Corp.; and Henry Becton, president of the WGBH Educational Foundation.

Under the Powell plan, cable is being asked to carry at no charge 'up to
five' HDTV channels supplied by cable or broadcast networks.

Cable-industry leaders have said they expect broadcast HDTV programming to
gain cable carriage pursuant to the Powell plan.

In the Powell letter, the TV-station owners pitched the idea that cable ought
to be told to carry a single HDTV stream or multiple digital-TV streams, and
cable should not be allowed 'to strip out other innovative services that
broadcasters develop for their digital capacity.'

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