November 29, 2020

Broadcast Flag and Compatibility

National Journal Tech Daily (an excellent publication, but behind a paywall) has an interesting story, by Sarah Lai Stirland, about an exchange between Mike Godwin of Public Knowledge and some entertainment industry lobbyists, at a DC panel last week. Godwin argued that the FCC’s broadcast flag rule, if it is reinstated, will end up regulating a very broad range of devices.

Godwin said any regulations concerning digital television copy-protection schemes would necessarily have to affect any devices that hook up to digital television receivers. That technical fact could have far-reaching implications, such as making gadgets incompatible with each other and crimping technology companies’ ability to innovate, he said.

“I don’t want to be the legislator or the legislative staff person in charge of shutting off connectivity and compatibility for consumers, and I don’t think you want to do that either,” he told a roomful of technology policy lobbyists and congressional staffers. “It’s going to make consumers’ lives hell.”

Godwin’s talk drew a sharp protest from audience member Rick Lane, vice president of government affairs at News Corp.

“Compatibility is not a goal,” he said, pointing out that there are currently a plethora of consumer electronics and entertainment products that are not interoperable. Lane was seconded by NBC Universal’s Senior Counsel for Government Relations Alec French, who also was in the audience.

To consumers, compatibility is a goal. When devices don’t work together, that is a problem to be solved, not an excuse to mandate even more incompatibility.

The FCC and Congress had better be careful in handling the digital TV issue, or they’ll be blamed for breaking the U.S. television system. Mandating incompatibility, via the Broadcast Flag, will not be a popular policy, especially at a time when Congress is talking about shutting off analog TV broadcasts.

The most dangerous place in Washington is between Americans and their televisions.

Comments

  1. “The most dangerous place in Washington is between Americans and their televisions.”

    Wow! What a great quote.

  2. Thanks for the post. Just wanted to point out that the event was hosted by The Progress & Freedom Foundation.

  3. Felix Deutsch says:

    If more Americans shot their televisions, Washington would be a much less dangerous place.

  4. Felix Deutsch says:

    If more Americans shot their TVs (especially those running NewsCorp fare 24/7), Washington would be a much less dangerous place.

  5. Felix Deutsch says:

    Sorry for the double comment.
    The first didn’t show up right away.

    I’m going to shoot my laptop now.

  6. [in a western drawl] Yeh can take away mah shotgun; yeh can make meh license mah revolver; yeh can stick yer transmitter in mah passport and stop meh drivin’ mah truck over 55. But yeh can have mah telleyvision when yeh pry it from mah cold, dead fingers!