Padden will change tune on digital TV

WASHINGTON — ABC prexy Preston Padden is expected to clear up a few “misconceptions” today about his network’s plans to exploit the digital TV spectrum during the next few years.

Padden, along with Sinclair Broadcast Group’s David Smith, are expected to testify that they have been misunderstood by the press and members of Congress, say sources familiar with the testimony. Both Padden and Smith surprised Washington last month with proposals to use the digital spectrum to offer a subscription TV service designed to compete directly with cable.

The plan surprised some in Congress, who said broadcasters were given the digital TV spectrum for free to ensure U.S. viewers would have the best possible broadcast picture through high-definition TV.

Now both ABC and Sinclair are saying that they have no intention of abandoning the digital channel’s highest resolution picture. But that does not mean they won’t explore using the digital spectrum to offer several channels of slightly lower resolution television.

FCC Chairman Reed Hundt is also expected to face tough questioning today about statements in the New York Times in which he said broadcasters should not have to compensate the government if they use their digital spectrum to offer pay TV services.

Hundt’s views run contrary to current law, which requires broadcasters to pay for the spectrum if they begin charging viewers.

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