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Lobbyists comment on broadcast flag politics

Comments on television copy protection by two major broadcast lobbyists spread like wildfire across the Internet last week, raising the question whether broadcasters care how the proposed broadcast flag technology would impact viewers.

Originally reported by the National Journal’s Tech Daily, the comments came during a meeting in Washington, D.C., of technology policy lobbyists and congressional staff members.

Mike Godwin of Public Knowledge, the consumer advocacy group, argued that the broadcast flag rule, if reinstated, would end up regulating a very broad range of consumer electronics devices. That fact alone, he said, means the copy protection technology would have far-reaching implications, such as making home electronics incompatible with each other and crimping technology companies’ ability to innovate.

Godwin’s comments drew a sharp protest from audience member Rick Lane, vice president of government affairs at News Corp., parent company to the Fox Broadcasting outlets. Lane said compatibility was not a goal and pointed out that there are currently many consumer electronics and entertainment products that are not interoperable.

Alec French, NBC Universal’s senior counsel for government relations, agreed with Lane.

Lane and French’s comments didn’t sit well with many. The editors of Endgadget, a web site promoting consumer electronics, responded with the headline: TV execs don’t care whether or not the broadcast flag makes watching TV more frustrating.

Endgadget wrote that the last thing the current (uneasy) transition from analog to digital television broadcasting needed was a lot of confusing “crap” that makes it impossible for people to use the TiVo they just bought with their new HDTV. The Web site wrote that broadcasters are going to hurt themselves in the end.

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