Senate Set To Raise Broadcast Flag
January 25, 2006

The debate continues over whether listeners will be able to use new digital broadcast signals to pirate high-quality copies of music and TV shows. Recently the heads of the RIAA and NAB fired off public letters, calling for a union to work together to find a solution to the issue, without having to encrypt a signal at the source.

At a Senate hearing yesterday (January 24), Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) stood behind the "broadcast flag," saying it was a necessity to further prevent piracy online. Stevens said that the issue requires "an act of Congress, in my opinion." The FCC approved the flag back in the fall of 2003, though a federal appeals court later overruled their authority to control the manufacturing of TV receivers that were not compliant. A similar ban on HD Radio receivers that can record signals did not go over as well, according to

RIAA head Mitch Bainwol was on hand for the hearing, as was Susquehanna Radio's Dan Halyburton, who appeared on behalf of the NAB. Bainwol told the Senate that the issue is "not casual recording by listeners. It is not taping off the radio like we used to do. We are talking about allowing broadcast programs to be automatically captured and then disaggregated, song by song, into a massive library of music."

According to CNet, Halyburton added that P2P networks are "a more important and immediate threat" than the recording of digital broadcasts. He added, "NAB does not believe that legislation is necessary at this time. The immediacy, reality or scope of any threat to the recording industry from a scenario in which consumers make good quality recordings from digital broadcasts on their local radio stations remains to be demonstrated."

Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) President/CEO Gary Shapiro also spoke out against the broadcast flag, saying to the Senate committee, "After seven years of FCC proceedings, all but ignored by the RIAA until recently, the rollout of digital radio - also known as HD Radio - is underway. Any Congressional nod toward the RIAA limits could stop the rollout of this exciting new technology in its tracks."

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Mark Adams
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