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Networks Salute Flag

The Big Four networks Tuesday praised the Senate Commerce Committee for including language in its telecom bill draft that would establish the broadcast flag digital content protection.

"We applaud the Committee for including a TV Broadcast Flag provision to assure that high value content remains available to over-the-air viewers," said ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC in a joint statement.

The FCC already approved the flag technology once, but a court threw it out, saying the technology was post-transmission and beyond the FCC's authority. The Senate bill would expressly give it that authority. But the bill also included carve-outs for news, and public affairs, and distance-learning and other educational "fair uses" of digital content. Committee Chairman Ted Stevens is from Alaska, where there is a lot of dirt between schools, as well as lightbulbs, to paraphrase a popular committee observation about the need for help reaching rural areas with communications services.

"We welcome the opportunity to work with the Committee to ensure that the exceptions do not undermine that goal," the networks said.

MPAA President Dan Glickman echoed the network's praise and concern. "While the provision is not perfect, it is a good start to an important debate. The future of free broadcast television is at stake," Glickman said. "I am concerned, however, that certain exceptions put in place in the draft bill may serve to undermine the underlying effort," he added. "We look forward to working with him to make certain that the language in the final bill accomplishes the overarching goal he seeks to achieve: protecting high value content on free-over-the-air broadcasts.”