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Infopike amendment draws fire at hearing

The broadcast industry’s bid for spectrum flexibility to provide data transmission and other services came under attack Thursday in the Senate Commerce Committee.

Andy Schwartzman, head of the D.C.-based public interest law firm Media Access Project, claimed that broadcasting is a “protected and highly profitable business” whose public service obligations will be threatened if stations are given new spectrum opportunities.

Broadcasters are fighting for an amendment to infohighway legislation in both the House and Senate that will allow them to use a portion of unused HDTV spectrum to provide new services. Schwartzman complained the proposal “creates no new obligations to serve the public” and would encourage broadcasters to offer pay-TV services.

John Siegel, chairman of the National Assn. of Broadcasters’ TV Board, disputed Schwartzman’s claims. He said providing spectrum flexibility “will not replace the public interest-based service that radio and TV broadcasters provide.”

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