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Will Hollywood control your TV?

Dear Brad:

In regard to your editorial in the August 2002 issue, you’re just plain wrong. Perhaps you should have checked the facts with knowledgeable folks in the broadcast and production communities instead of relying on the misrepresentations published by www.eff.org to provide the predigested fodder for your editorials.

When protection technology is properly implemented by CE manufacturers, the consumer will have absolutely no idea that it is working and in place. DVI (with HDCP content protection technology) is only one of the possible DTV receivers to display interconnection mechanisms, particularly appropriate for uncompressed component digital signals. Another is 1394 (Firewire) with DTCP content protection technology, which is appropriate for compressed digital interconnection applications and allows recording of broadcast content. There may even be more possibilities available in the future. As these interfaces are incorporated into products over the next several years and unprotected analog connections are gradually phased out, no current consumer expectations will be lost or modified in the least. The only effect will be a reasonable deterrent to piracy and looting. Perhaps you should direct your readers to a more accurate description of content protection capabilities at www.mpaa.org/home.htm, and the “Broadcast Flag” area of that site for correct information on broadcast content protection.

Content produced by the major studios in Los Angeles is indeed precious – it provides the reason that consumers continue to tune into the various forms of television delivered by broadcasting businesses – businesses employing many thousands of people from maintenance technicians to master control operators to DBS dish installers.

As a business – broadcasting – we should be very concerned with our ability to maintain the value of our only real asset: entertaining content. Without it, consumers have nothing to consume and the rest of us involved in its production and distribution have no profession. And you, sir, will have no audience for your magazine. The world has proved itself fully capable of looting entertainment audio and video content to the detriment of the economic value of our businesses. To deny the industry the ability to protect content assets and ensure convenient enjoyment by consumers through invisible mechanisms designed only to thwart illegal looting is to promote and encourage the demise of the livelihood of the broadcasting and content production industries.

To advocate the positions of www.eff.org is to advocate the loss of the broadcasting profession in general. As someone within the broadcast industry you should be ashamed of yourself for even remotely suggesting that their opinions are tenable.

This represents the views and opinions of Fox Broadcasting, Twentieth Century Television and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, all units of News Corporation.

Sincerely,

Scott E. Hamilton, vice president, software engineering news technology group news corp./fox

Editor responds:

First of all, Mr. Hamilton, consumers will know when the “protection technology” you so reverently espouse is implemented. The first hints will be when their current HDTV sets go dark, when the PVR won’t record their shows, or their CDs and DVDs won’t play in their computers or cars.

Perhaps the consumer will know Hollywood’s protectionist practices have been implemented when their computer crashes because you have been allowed to secretly enter their computer and trash their files under the guise of anti-piracy. Don’t tell me consumers won’t be affected by Hollywood’s desire to retain its power.

Your source problem lies in the way you want to do business. Your ilk simply want to continue the 1950s era business model where you raid consumers’ pocketbooks, control the distribution channel and make billions, and you just expect consumers to comply.

Technology has moved on, Mr. Hamilton. The days of paying $13 million a year to perky TV faces like Jane Pauley or $25 million per movie to actors like Harrison Ford – whether or not their shows and movies make any money – are gone. Stop trying to turn back the clock. Hollywood will learn to produce content for less and remodel today’s monopolistic distribution system – or it will die.

Change is coming and you’ll either adapt and adopt, or you’ll be seeing early retirement. Frankly, the latter would be good for all of us. The sooner we get rid of the Hollywood dinosaurs like you and Jack Valenti, who all claim the sky is falling because of piracy, the sooner consumers will see more innovative and available programming usable on their schedule, portable to their players and at reasonable prices.

The issues of your desired protectionist technology are merely window dressing on an industry that is dying, and you guys will grasp any straw to stay in business, even if it penalizes innocent consumers.

So I’ll still be here, Mr. Hamilton, promoting my broadcast and production industries, while you, sir, will be sucking that dirty Hollywood air. Long live consumerism! Your industry, as you’d “like it to be,” is dead. You just don’t know it yet.

Brad Dick
editorial director

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