Lawmakers Urge FCC Action on DTV

Turning up the heat yet again on the FCC, top lawmakers urged FCC Chairman Michael Powell to get cracking on the DTV transition, saying the commission has "ample authority" to address many of the troublesome DTV issues.

The July 19 letter from House Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and the committee's top Democrat, Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, follows their announcement earlier that they would legislate solutions to issues including DTV tuners, cable carriage of DTV, set-top box compatibility, content protection and high-definition pass-through of network programming by local affiliates.

"We want to emphasize that our legislative agenda in no way relieves the commission of its obligation to continue to work diligently to resolve these issues expeditiously," the lawmakers told Powell.

They singled out the issue of a "broadcast flag," which could be a key part of digital copy protection, as a matter the FCC has authority to regulate.

In a separate letter to Powell, Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (D-S.C.) pressed the broadcast flag issue, also saying that the FCC has authority to act on recommendations from the industry Broadcast Protection Discussion Group to create protections for copyright owners.

Powell did not immediately respond publicly to either letter.

Adding to the legislative chorus was longtime DTV proponent Edward Markey (D-Mass.) who urged the commission to put some meat behind its DTV proposals.

"As welcome as it is to call upon industry leaders for voluntary efforts, such hortatory rhetoric is no substitute for real action because voluntary efforts alone will not achieve our important policy objectives in timely fashion," Markey wrote to Powell.

Reminding the commissioner of the representative's 1997 proposal for mandatory DTV tuners, Markey asked Powell to "take action to promulgate rules at the earliest possible date" to compel the consumer electronics industry to include digital tuners in sets 13 inches and above.