Late last week, we reported on the latest draft of the Communications, Consumer’s Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006, which would substantially rewrite the nation’s telecommunications law among other things. Particularly alarming was the reappearance of the broadcast flag in a clause that would empower the Federal Communications Commission to mandate its use in television and digital radio. It’s about to get worse.
The US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation began deliberations on the bill, but was unable to complete its work. In a press release, Committee Chairman Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) says that he hopes the Committee will wrap up its work on the bill early this week. Buried in the release is a bit of alarming news about the broadcast flag:
The video broadcast flag title in the original bill has been replaced with Senator Inouye’s broadcast flag bill verbatim which was originally developed by Senators Smith and Boxer. Each of the major networks, the National Association of Broadcasters, and the Motion Picture Association of America have endorsed that title.
Referred to as the Digital Content Protection Act of 2006, the section of the wide-ranging legislation would empower the FCC to resurrect the broadcast flag for television and create another flag for digital radio. The audio flag provision, written by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR), has the full support of the Recording Industry Association of America.
This is bad news for consumers and consumer electronics manufacturers. Enacting the broadcast flag will make it easier for the MPAA and RIAA to limit how consumers view and consume media, forcing us to pay multiple times for the same content in many cases. For consumer electronics manufacturers, the flag would require them to get the FCC to sign off on any device capable of recording television or digital radio.
Plans are for the Committee to work step-by-step through the bill over the next couple of days, so there is still a chance more consumer-friendly changes could be made. That’s why it is vital to contact Committee members over the next couple of days to let them know how consumers feel about the legislation in general and the broadcast flag in particular.