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Stevens, Hollings Push for Broadcast Flag

Sens. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) are urging the Federal Communications Commission to complete action on the broadcast-flag rulemaking -- an effort by the agency to block illegal Internet retransmission of local-TV-station content.

"In our view, adoption of this technological tool will significantly advance the digital-television transition and will help to place free, off-air broadcasters on a level playing field with cable and satellite platforms in their ability to protect high-value digital content from illegal Internet redistribution," the senators said in an Oct. 27 two-page letter to FCC chairman Michael Powell.

Stevens is chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, which decides the FCC's budget, and Hollings is the panel's top-ranking Democrat.

The FCC is expected to adopt broadcast rules no later than this week, although next week was also being called possible.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) sent Powell a letter Monday urging him to hold a public hearing on the broadcast flag, claiming that the technology was far more burdensome on fair-use rights than proponents have acknowledged.

Some have complained that the flag would bar someone from e-mailing a local TV-news clip in which he or she appeared to family and friends, or even from shipping it from one personal e-mail account to another. Such a restriction has prompted calls for a broadcast-flag exemption for news and public-affairs programming.

The industry is seeking to quash that proposal. National Association of Broadcasters president Edward Fritts sent Powell a letter Monday arguing that an exemption for news would expose TV-station intellectual property to piracy and hurt the transition to all-digital TV.

"It is particularly important that the protection of the broadcast flag apply to all programming on broadcast stations and, thus, we oppose any exemption for local news and public-affairs programming," Fritts said.