Copyright 2002 Reed Elsevier Inc.

Daily Variety…06/12/2002

From LexisNexis

WASHINGTON — You have one month — July 15 to be precise.

That's the deadline Rep. W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-La.) gave Hollywood studios, the computer biz and consumer electronics makers on Tuesday to work out their remaining differences and settle on a way to stop digital TV from being hooked up to the Internet.

Tauzin, like other solons, is growing impatient over the stalled transition to digital TV, recognizing that the switch won't happen until movies and popular TV skeins are protected from exposure to cyberspace piracy.

If private negotiations fail, Tauzin is prepared to step in and mandate government intervention.

Topper of the influential House Commerce Committee, Tauzin delivered the deadline during a meeting with more than two dozen reps from the various industries as well as Motion Picture Assn. of America prexy-CEO Jack Valenti. Fox Group prexy of engineering Andrew Setos, who's repping Hollywood on a special task force, also was in attendance.

"What Chairman Tauzin did today was to give homework assignments to the various stakeholders, with the hopes of resolving some of the stickier issues before Congress takes its summer recess," top Tauzin aide Ken Johnson said.

"As an example, he asked the parties to resolve all the policy and technical issues with regard to the (so-called) broadcast-flag (technology) (which would protect terrestrial broadcast from being uploaded to the Internet). We would like to see a few more people on board before we shake hands and move on," Johnson said.

Last week, the task force of execs from the three industries largely agreed to proceed with that solution . There are still outstanding issues, however, including to what degree Hollywood can dictate the terms and breadth of the technology.

Tauzin agreed that the three industries have made substantial progress, but said he wanted the group to return to the bargaining table and hold further negotiations.

"The news delivered to Chairman Tauzin today confirms that it is possible for a disparate group of people to come together in a good-faith discussion to produce positive results for all," Valenti said in a statement.

"Implementation of the broadcast flag will permit digital TV stations to obtain high-value content and assure consumers a continued source of attractive, free, over-the-air programming without limiting the consumer's ability to make home copies," Valenti said.