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In a speech last week to the National Press Club in Washington, Geraldine Laybourne, chief executive of the nascent Oxygen cable network for women-which needs cable systems to free up room for the channel-lashed out against broadcasters' insistence that must-carry rules be extended to their digital signals:

"Must-carry is a relic, a vestige that no longer matters to anyone but broadcasters.

"Consumers certainly don't want, need nor do they benefit in any way from broadcasters getting the carryover of must-carry to the digital world..

"The unintended consequence could be that operators will be forced to drop existing cable networks-ones that consumers like to watch and actually depend on-in favor of duplicative broadcast content.

"The unintended consequence will surely mean dim prospects for innovative new services and the new, independent voices they bring, which, you will remember, was the whole idea behind must-carry in the first place. No wonder DBS is filing suit against must-carry.."