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More Input On Outputs

Forces massed against the Motion Picture Association of America's request for a waiver of the commission's prohibition on selectable output controls on set-top boxes continue to press their case in Washington.

The studios want to selectively block the copying of HD movies via cable set-top boxes in order to move up the multichannel video on demand HD window for films while still protecting the DVD window.

Tuesday it was the Consumer Electronics Association and the Independent Film & Television Alliance, which both sent letters to the commission.

They argue that MPAA has not provided evidence or justification for the permanent waiver.

"It is already difficult enough for consumers to obtain independent programming on broadcast and cable television," said Jean Prewitt, IFTA president, in the letter. "While this may be a backdoor attempt to develop some kind high definition service, the FCC should not take any action without requiring MPAA to demonstrate this petition is in the public interest."

In a letter submitted to the FCC Monday, attorneys for CEA talked about how blocking inputs could affect the consumers of its electronics equipment. "A consumer may lawfully purchase a television, bring it home, and then find out that it simply does not work as expected with the services to which the family has subscribed. This is the exact opposite of the sort of experience that the commission and the Congress have sought to assure."

Last week, Public Knowledge, which is also opposed to the waiver, said it understood the commission's Media Bureau to be close to granting the waiver, but bureau chief Bill Lake said no decision has been made and that a decision was not "imminent."

The request has been pending for over a year and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has told his bureau chiefs to work on clearing up backlogs where possible.