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Wiley doubts 2006 digital deadline

Washington law partner and former FCC Chairman Richard Wiley said it was unlikely that broadcasters would meet the 2006 deadline for converting their stations to digital and turning back their analog spectrum to the government.

"I think its highly problematic," Wiley told those attending The Big Picture media conference in New York Tuesday. He cited standards issues, less-than-ideal quality of and consumer resistance to buying the required TV receivers, copyright issues and the ongoing haggling between broadcasters and cablecasters over interoperability and carriage issues.

But the biggest issue, Wiley said, is lack of compelling programming to drive set sales. Sony Corp. of America president Howard Stringer said viewers will buy more sets as more manufacturers introduce receivers that combine tuners and decoders into a single unit.

NBC president Bob Wright said a lot of issues need sorting out that will just take time. "It's not going to come together quickly," he said. Viewers "won't spend $2,000 to use a set of rabbit ears," he said, referring to the cable issues. "It's going to have to settle out. It's not there at all." - Steve McClellan