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Reps Back Broadcast Flag

Twenty representatives, including many members of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, have written Subcommitte Chairmen Fred upton (R-Mich.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) backing reinstatement of the broadcast flag.

Back in May, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington ruled that the FCC overstepped its authority when it required manufacturers of digital TVs to include "broadcast flag" technology to protect programming content from piracy.

Broadcasters and Hollywood say a strong safeguard against illegal copying must be in place if TV stations are going to be allowed to air digital versions of the latest movies and other valuable programming.

Fair use advocates, led by Public Knowledge, say it threatens fair uses of that material by schools, libraries and individuals.

The legislators, which included Republican subcommittee members John Shimkus and Charles Pickering and Democrat members Albert Wynn and Charles Gonzalez, argue that the flag is necessary to spur the transition to digital and to preserve free TV by making it competitive with other media.

"The timely preservation of free, over-the-air television is essential to a smooth and timely transition to digital television, and the implementation of the broadcast flag plays a vital role in this undertaking."

Public Knowledge responded Friday: “We agree with the letter in its view of the importance of local broadcasting as a provider of local news, events and information to consumers.  However, we see no link between the continued provision of that valuable service and the broadcast flag.  There is no evidence even to suggest that any programming would be withheld without a broadcast flag regime."