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PUBLIC INTEREST OBLIGATIONS OF DIGITAL TELEVISION BROADCASTERS: AN EXAMINATION OF POSSIBLE REGULATORY MODELS

The digital television revolution is well underway. Local television stations are initiating on-air program tests of digital signals and are spending millions of dollars each to upgrade their production and transmission facilities. By the end of this year, network affiliates in the largest markets will begin to transmit DTV signals -- even earlier than the government has required. Although at the end of the transition broadcasters will still provide television programming on a single 6 MHz channel, digital television technology will enable broadcasters to offer a wide array of viewing options -- all with crystal clear pictures and CD quality sound.

The committee is charged with recommending a regulatory framework to be applied to digital television broadcasters. The following is a brief discussion of two possible frameworks for regulation of the television broadcasting industry in the digital age, along with some appropriate rationales for each framework.

FRAMEWORK I: DEREGULATION OF THE TELEVISION INDUSTRY

Dallas-Fort Worth 32.0%

Charlotte, NC -- 27.7%

Seattle-Tacoma -- 27.1%

Portland, OR -- 26.8%

New Orleans -- 26.4%

St. Louis -- 26.1%

Houston -- 25.9%

Sacramento -- 25.1%

Hampton-Norfolk, VA -- 25.8%

Tulsa -- 24.9%

Boise -- 24.4%

Louisville, KY -- 23.6%

Spokane -- 23.6%

Santa Fe-Albuquerque -- 23.6%

Tucson -- 22.6%

San Antonio -- 22.4%

Honolulu -- 14.8%

WFAA-TV (ABC) Dallas-Fort Worth -- 37.0%

KING-TV (NBC) Seattle-Tacoma -- 36.0%

KMOV-TV (CBS) St. Louis -- 30.5%

FRAMEWORK II: CONTINUE WITH THE EXISTING REGULATORY REGIME

  1. IN BELO'S VIEW, THERE IS NO IDENTIFIABLE NEED FOR FURTHER BURDENSOME REGULATION OF TELEVISION PROGRAM CONTENT.
  1. THE DIGITAL SPECTRUM "GIVE-AWAY" IS A MYTH.