“The nation desperately needs spectrum and every year fewer Americans rely on the broadcasting spectrum,” says CEA President Gary Shapiro in a reponse to last Friday’s Jessell at Large column critical of CEA for its support for the FCC’s broadcast spectrum plan. “Somehow this fact was ignored in Jessell’s analysis. We have not proposed a spectrum grab by the government, but would welcome creative alternatives which reward broadcasters for consolidation of spectrum usage.”
Editor: The column by Harry Jessell concerning our position on broadcast spectrum is interesting (Jessell at Large, “Et Tu, Consumer Electronics Industry”), but contains some uncharacteristic distortions.
First, crediting the broadcasters for the entire HDTV transition is revisionist history. While many broadcasters deserve credit for strategic thinking, most resisted and missed the opportunity to reclaim their over-the-air market share.
Indeed, the only big mistake I made in the early ’90s when I drafted a long-term DTV plan for the CE industry was assuming a large role for broadcasting. I advocated for must carry for DTV long before broadcasters. I also did not foresee the lack of interest of broadcasters in expanding the OTA. (I also did not anticipate that DVD would drive HDTV sales way more than broadcasters would.)
The failure of broadcasters to take advantage of HDTV and the wisdom of a close look at spectrum utilization are related by a simple fact: today, fewer than one-tenth of American homes rely primarily on the free OTA signal.
The technology industry has always worked closely with broadcasters when it is in our best interests to do so. And vice versa. The NAB opposition and delay of the XM-Sirius merger, the repeated attempts for mandates on CE, even the proposals for excise taxes, came from broadcasters, not the CE industry.
We understand that we have different interests. I represent some 2,000 technology companies including a score of set makers. Yet, all recognize the need for more spectrum and our filing was made with our members’ support. Indeed, I am aware of only one objecting member and that member sells products to broadcasters.
Your theory that we are doing this to court the Democrats is novel, but I assure you it is incorrect. We are simply trying to do the right thing for a future that requires innovation and wireless broadband. We are fairly factual and technically based in our approach. We are proud of our research. (Yes, all the DTV and coupon projections we issued for years were correct.)
The nation desperately needs spectrum and every year fewer Americans rely on the broadcasting spectrum. Somehow this fact was ignored in Jessell’s analysis. We have not proposed a spectrum grab by the government, but would welcome creative alternatives which reward broadcasters for consolidation of spectrum usage.
We want a discussion, not a political battle. Broadcasters have a claim on rights through must carry and that should be part of the movement forward. Simply, it is in our national interest to use spectrum better.
So let’s focus on what makes sense for the country and broadcasters and technology and consumers.
Gary Shapiro, president, Consumer Electronics Association
This letter originally appeared in the comments section following the Jessell at Large column.