Chairman Tauzin Issues Statement on Digital Television Hearing to Explore Why Transition to DTV is off Track -- How to Put it Feedback Back on Track
Washington (March 15) -- Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-LA) today is scheduled to deliver the following statement at a Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee hearing considering the problems associated with the DTV transition process:
''Thank you, Chairman Upton for calling this hearing on the important issue of digital television and the myriad issues surrounding the transition. I, like many of my colleagues, have been intimately involved in the digital conversion since its embryonic stages over a decade ago. So it is with great interest that we have this hearing today to discuss the status of the DTV transition, the implications of two recent FCC decisions on the transition, and other issues that remain unresolved.
''I would like to thank all the witnesses for coming before this Committee today to testify about what their particular industries are specifically doing to ensure this transition is a seamless one for consumers. When industry talks to us about the transition to digital television each segment explains in full detail what they are doing and how their efforts are being hamstrung by the action or inaction of another industry. While equipment manufacturers have developed and shipped and increasing number of displays, set-top-boxes and integrated receivers, they argue that consumers won't buy DTV equipment in sufficient numbers until there is more and better programming out there for viewers to actually enjoy -- something different than merely redundant analog programming. Broadcasters, who I would like to note have 184 stations up and running in digital, in turn say that they are developing exciting new programming -- and highlight the industry's leader -- CBS, whom I would like to commend -- but say but say more won't be developed until there are more receivers in American homes; until those receivers are fully interoperable with cable, and until adequate copyright protections are in place. In addition, broadcasters are concerned that even if they do have new and exciting programming it won't reach consumers because cable operators are not obligated to carry both the analog and digital signals during the transition, nor are they required to carry more than a single stream of programming when a programmer chooses to multicast. The cable industry, who I note has quietly been upgrading their systems to digital and producing HDTV programming, argue that they should enjoy the benefits of their upgrades NOT the broadcasting industry. People tell me it is the classic 'chicken and egg' argument. Well, as a fervent supporter of the transition to digital television I am deeply afraid that each industry will continue to blame each other and that, in the end, that proverbial 'egg' is going to be broken over the heads of consumers.
''While we all recognize that we are asking for deep commitments by all industry players to come together and work in a constructive fashion to realize the promise of digital television -- we are also asking quite a bit of consumers and we must not forget that. Consumers will be told that if they want to continue to receive free, over-the-air television, cable or satellite service they must purchase new equipment. I am interested to hear from the witnesses about how much consumers should expect to pay for equipment. I am also interested in learning more about the choice of equipment packages consumers will be able to enjoy. Also, how many STBs will a consumer with multiple televisions in his home be required to purchase? One family's approach to digital television may not be like another's and I want to ensure that they have the same flexibility to embrace digital television technology as we provided to the broadcasters. It is for this reason that I am opposed to a tuner requirement which in my view will impose an unacceptably high cost on consumers with no guarantee that additional, sufficient programming will be available to watch. I am also concerned about talk of 'receiver standards' as I think they are nothing more than a race to the bottom in terms of technology and in any event represent an inappropriate role for government to be playing. I agree with the FCC that marketplace dynamics will bring continued improvement in receivers.
''As you are aware, in 1997, Congress designated some broadcasting spectrum for free high-definition programming. The broadcasters using this new digital spectrum were allowed to keep their current analog spectrum until 2006 or until 85 percent of homes had digital television, at which time they would have to return the old analog spectrum to be auctioned off for new services. I am concerned that this 'soft' deadline is thwarting the certain and swift transition to digital. As a result, I am willing to consider exploring the idea of imposing a 'hard' deadline of 2006 to reinvigorate everyone to work together to bring about the transition, provided that we can be assured that consumers will be able to go out and purchase various receivers and set-top-boxes and HDTVs at reasonable, and declining costs. I do not want the consumer to bear the brunt of this transition.
''I remind everyone that we did not pluck the amount of spectrum 'loaned' to the broadcasters out of thin air. Rather, it was because that is how much spectrum is required to deliver an HDTV signal to consumers. Had broadcasters not promised to provide some amount of HDTV -- and were going to solely multicast -- we could have done a number of other things -- provide 3 or 4 or 5 MHz of spectrum or not provided any at all. So I remind broadcasters that while we provided them with the flexibility to develop their own business plans blending the amounts of HDTV and multicast programming and even some amounts of datacasting -- we gave you 6 MHz for a reason. Hence, I am very anxious to hear about the concrete business plans of broadcasters. In that regard, I would like to state that while I agree with the Commission about the multicasting issue, I am interested in hearing how this decision to only require carriage of only a single video stream will impact broadcasters and the development of DTV programming. It is my hope that broadcasters will still be able to enjoy carriage of their multicasted programming based on the market demand for such programming pursuant to retransmission consent agreements. I also note the decision's particular strong impact on the public broadcasters, who have been busily engaged in developing genuine DTV business plans that are heavily reliant on multicasting for educational and informational purposes.
''We also need to get our hands around the delicate issue of providing digital copyright protection while preserving long-standing consumer expectations about taping in the privacy of their homes for non-commercial, personal purposes. It is absolutely essential to the digital transition. Without adequate copyright protection there is no content. And when there is a dearth of content no consumer in his right mind would go out and spend money on new digital equipment. I would like to commend all in the industry for working hard on this issue. For instance, the 5c companies and the content community for working together to for producing a copy protection system that works with cable and satellite delivered programming. But as the letter I recently sent with and number of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in both chambers noted, we still have no resolution on copyright protection for broadcast programming. I do not want the transition to digital television mean the end of quality free, over-the-air programming. Given the importance of resolving these issues, the Subcommittee will devote an entire hearing to the subject of copyright protection in the digital age later this year.
''Indeed, this is intended to be the first in a series of subcommittee hearings intended to explore why the transition to digital television is 'off-track' and how to put it back on track. To the extent the Committee can determine why the digital transition is being delayed, Congress stands in a position to encourage a more orderly process. While this hearing may get a bit chaotic with everyone on one panel, I think such an approach discourages Members of this Committee from looking at discrete issues in isolation and rather, encourages to see the entire DTV picture. Thank you.''
- 30 -
The Committee on Energy and Commerce 2125 Rayburn House Office
Building Washington, DC 20515 (202) 225-2927
IDTV(Interractive Digital TV)
JAR(Japan Access Rating)
PIAC of Digital TV Broadcastersの最終報告
Sun StorEdge Media Central
World Summit on Media for Children
MEDIA Programme of the European Union
EAS(Emergency Alert System)
Research and Markets社の「Digital Media Technology 」