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Powell showers praises on HDTV

Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell preached the gospel
of high-definition TV at the National Show in New Orleans Tuesday morning.

'You want high-definition television,' he told cable's top executives.
'Everybody [in media entertainment] wants it because the digital revolution is
genuine and real.'

Under pressure from Powell, the top cable operators have already committed to
providing at least five channels of HDTV programming starting next year. He
reassured attendees that it was the right thing to do: 'It's an enormous
opportunity for cable, as well as for anyone who hopes to be accessing consumers
in their home with the products of the future.'

Powell suggested that his HDTV evangelism is motivated principally by the
government's desire to speed the transition of TV broadcasting from analog to
digital. The sooner consumers buy digital-TV sets to receive HDTV service, he
added, the sooner the government can recover broadcast analog spectrum.

'That spectrum is extremely valuable,' Powell said. 'And the government wants
it back, so many of these other great digital things we see being experimented
with have more breathing room, more spectrum. To get it back, the transition has
to succeed.'

But Powell added that he believes there is consumer demand, perhaps latent,
for the wide screens and high resolution of HDTV.

'When I go into Circuit City, nobody is standing there staring at the 13-inch
black-and-white,' he said. 'They are all in that really dark room with the big
ones. And if they are not buying it, they are wishing they could buy it.'

He continued, 'Every man in this room knows the TV-envy thing -- 62 inches,
huh? There is a lot of culture wrapped up in this.'