DTV Encryption Vexes Broadcasters

WASHINGTON — Embedded anti-piracy measures that protect digital television programming delivered over cable systems but not when it’s delivered over the airwaves could spark a serious decline in broadcast television, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said Thursday.

“If the best program is protected only on cable, we all know what Americans are going to receive over the air,” said Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., chairman of the House Commerce Committee. “It will not be the best. It will be the worst. It will be the dregs, the old reruns we’ve seen a dozen, 12 dozen times.”

He called on broadcasters to work with the companies backing the so-called 5C encryption standard to improve anti-piracy protections. The 5C standard, which some of the major motion picture studios say is too weak, is unable to place recording restrictions on programs broadcast over the air.

“We wish there was a silver-bullet technology to protect broadcast transmissions, but we haven’t found one that doesn’t create more problems than it solves,” Warner Bros. chief technology officer Chris Cookson said.

Tauzin’s comments came at a hearing on the transition to digital television from analog before the House Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee. Representatives from broadcasting firms seemed to agree with Tauzin’s concerns.