Cablers irked over HDTV use

The National Cable Television Assn. has come out swinging against broadcast industry efforts to use the transition to high-definition TV as a vehicle for becoming multichannel data providers.

Cable’s opposition surfaced in a letter this week from Jones Intercable chairman and CEO Glenn Jones to an FCC advisory committee.

The advisory panel is charged with advising the FCC on ongoing efforts to shift the delivery of the existing broadcast signal from an analog to digital HDTV transmission system.

‘Resist proposals’

Jones, who chairs the National Cable Television Assn. HDTV committee, wrote that the HDTV advisory panel should “resist proposals to permit TV stations to use valuable HDTV spectrum to provide services that fall outside their service as broadcast licensees.”

It would “undermine the legal policy bases of the whole HDTV process” if broadcasters were permitted flexible use of the spectrum, Jones claimed, and could delay implementation of HDTV.

The NCTA missive drew a sharp response from the National Assn. of Broadcasters. “This letter exposes NCTA’s objections for what they are,” said an NAB spokesman. “Cable fears competition and all broadcasters seek to provide is the same type of services as cable operators and telephone companies.”

The NAB, having complained that the Clinton administration was leaving broadcasters out of the “information superhighway” debate, persuaded lawmakers in the House of Representatives to include in infopike legislation a provision granting broadcasters spectrum flexibility. The Senate has not adopted similar lingo.

Under the House bill, broadcasters would be given the green light to send data transmissions such as stock quotes and electronic mail as long as they continue meeting their public interest obligations.

Broadcasters who fret they will be dwarfed by competing giant cable and telephone companies have latched onto the notion of spectrum flexibility.

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