The big corporations continue to pull the puppet strings of our "democracy" here. The tyranny of the capitalist continues, guys.
Full length article here, from the New York Times. faascinating, especially because I am in the market for a new TV set, and this article popped up.
Hearings Set on Measure to Promote Digital TV
By AMY HARMON
The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold hearings today on a bill intended to spur the development of digital television. It would render most current televisions obsolete by 2007 and require the Federal Communications Commission to support copy-protection technology designed to prevent consumers from copying and redistributing digital television programs.
Tomorrow, the House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property has scheduled a hearing on another bill, introduced by Representative Howard L. Berman, Democrat of California, that would protect entertainment companies that begin technological attacks against people trading copyrighted material over the Internet.
Digital delivery through broadcast and the Internet is seen as a potential boon to the economy. Wider adoption of broadband Internet services would help the beleaguered telecommunications industry, and the government plans to auction off billions of dollars of analog TV spectrum for other uses as soon as broadcasters make the switch to digital signals.
But consumer groups contend that the proposals signal a troublesome willingness in Congress to favor the interests of copyright holders over those of consumers in the face of new technology.
"Here we have technology that was supposed to enhance the consumer experience, expand their ability to use media, and now we find we're going in the exact opposite direction," said Mark Cooper, research director at the Consumer Federation of America.
Mr. Cooper's organization argues that the draft bill on digital television circulated by Representative Billy Tauzin, Republican of Louisiana, would make millions of existing videocassette recorders inoperable and force consumers to pay for more expensive equipment.
But Mr. Tauzin said the real harm to consumers came from struggles among broadcasters, cable operators and entertainment and consumer electronics companies over how to make the transition to digital television. Digital TV promises to improve picture quality markedly and provide viewers with CD-quality audio, more channels and interactivity.
"Time is passing," said Mr. Tauzin, who has urged industry representatives to reach a solution themselves. "We obviously want people to come in and tell us — if this is not the right solution, can you find a better one? And by the way, can you find it soon?"
Neither measure is expected to pass before the November elections, but the debate that unfolds in this week's hearings is viewed as a marker for legislation to come up in the next term of Congress.
The Tauzin proposal would force broadcasters to stop sending conventional analog television signals by Dec. 31, 2006, and its deadline could not be extended. Under current law, TV stations may continue using airwaves earmarked for analog signals until 85 percent of households in their market have digital TV sets.
But the transition has been slow. Only about three million digital sets — which currently can cost thousands of dollars — have been sold, and fewer than one-third of broadcast TV stations are transmitting digitally.
To speed things along, the F.C.C. last month ordered TV manufacturers to install digital tuners in most sets by 2007. Some TV makers have said they will fight the move, which they say will drive up the price of the average television set by more than $250.
Because that debate is likely to unfold in court, consumer groups are focusing on the provision in the Tauzin proposal that would require the F.C.C. to support copy-protection technology known as a broadcast flag. Designed to prevent TV viewers from redistributing material over the Internet, the technology could also be used to prevent consumers from recording shows or watching them where and when they choose.
The trade-off between thwarting Internet piracy and impinging on the way consumers interact with technology is also at issue in the Berman bill. Under the proposal, copyright owners would be free to use any technology to disable, block or impair their works from being pirated on a file-sharing network, provided that they did not damage users' computers or block other files.
"Will consumers have any reasonable recourse if they are the target of such an attack?" said Alan Davidson, associate director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a consumer rights advocacy group. "All of these may be very well-intentioned bills, but they have far-reaching impact on how consumers watch television and use phones and computers. We have to find a way to have a dialogue that has not taken place so far on Capitol Hill on what those implications are."