Tauzin to CBS: Keep HDTV

House Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), arguably the most important representative on television issues, asked broadcast HDTV leader CBS and its corporate parent, Viacom, to reconsider its threat to withhold high-end programming if a broadcast flag is not implemented by summer.

In a letter to CBS Television Chairman Leslie Moonves and Viacom President Mel Karmazin Tauzin said he's hopeful such a copy-protection scheme will be implemented by "certainly no later than the end of this calendar year."

Viacom has said in an FCC filing that it's only a matter of time before widespread Internet theft of high-end programming would destroy its value, stunting its further development. The broadcast flag is a technology that prevents unauthorized digital copying over the Internet.

"While I understand your concerns-and I share them-I ask that for the good of the digital transition, CBS reconsider its deadline," Tauzin wrote.

Tauzin said in the letter he would do "everything I can" to assist FCC Chairman Michael Powell in creating an order for the flag, but he stopped short of threatening legislative action. The broadcast flag was included in last year's draft of a DTV bill floated by Tauzin. That bill, once promised for introduction in spring, has been pronounced dead by some industry insiders.