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B’casters stake out infopike turf

Broadcasters who have been bystanders on the information superhighway are now primed to do battle in the upcoming legislative debate.

That’s the message that emerged from a National Assn. of Broadcasters board of directors meeting that concluded in Carlsbad, Calif., Thursday.

The NAB board adopted a policy statement directing its D.C. staff to fight for “pro-competitive safeguards” in infopike legislation to ensure the future viability of over-the-air broadcasting.

Thus far, the White House has resisted the notion of including a broadcast industry “wish list” in the infopike debate. The administration seemingly views the issue as more of a battle between cable, telephone and computer industries.

Moreover, White House sources have said privately that broadcasters should focus their efforts on persuading the Federal Communications Commission to relax rules they consider onerous.

Congress returns to action Jan. 25 and is expected to begin hearings immediately on information superhighway legislation. Hearings are planned Jan. 26-27 in the House of Representatives to kick off what promises to be a lengthy lobbying battle.

The NAB policy statement says infopike legislation “must be expanded to include policies that acknowledge the role that broadcasting plays today and in the future in serving the information needs of all Americans.”

NAB also is recommending:

  • That broadcasters be assured must-carry and retransmission consent rights not just from cable operators, but also telephone companies and others who distribute programming via wires;

  • A prohibition on telephone companies owning cable systems within the local phone service region;

  • Preservation of syndicated exclusivity and network non-duplication rules for all types of video delivery technologies;

  • And a ban on telephone companies using their telephone customers to subsidize entry into the video delivery business.

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