NAB 2016

Smith: TV For All, Not Broadband For Some

NAB President Gordon Smith decries the commission’s push away from broadcasting to broadband, saying there is no “higher and better use of spectrum than serving diverse audiences with free and local TV programming for all citizens.” Service, availability, ubiquity are just some of what set over-the-air broadcasting apart, he says. “It seems everyone wants what we have — our content and our spectrum — but nobody wants to do what we do — live and vital localism."

NAB President-CEO Gordon Smith took a shot at the FCC today for trying to create an America of television haves and have-nots.

In his opening speech at the association’s annual gathering in Las Vegas he said: “Lately, some at the FCC have been so enamored with mobile broadband and Silicon Valley that the Commission’s policy choices have unwittingly put us on an unnecessary collision course toward two Americas — one where the video future is available to those who can afford to pay, and one where they cannot.

“I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: There is no ‘higher and better use of spectrum’ than serving diverse audiences with free and local TV programming for all citizens.

“And if the FCC chooses to tip the scales on retransmission consent rules, upending the right for broadcasters to fairly negotiate for the value of their signals and, then, providing more advantages for big pay TV companies, they may guarantee that the content viewers most need, the content they most want and enjoy, well then that content will only be available to those who can afford it.

“Remember, a broadcast signal is always available with an antenna — and broadcast content is consistently the highest rated and the most watched on television.

“No one but local broadcasters provide this free, ubiquitous public service. It seems everyone wants what we have — our content and our spectrum — but nobody wants to do what we do — live and vital localism.


“These unique qualities of broadcast TV should be cherished by the FCC, rather than ensuring its availability only to the wealthy.”

Smith rallied his troops at the annual NAB Show by also celebrating the importance and value of broadcasting to local communities while warning of the “challenging time” in which they operate.

He also emphasized the bright future that could be possible if the FCC approves — and the industry adopts — ATSC 3.0 as television’s next-generation television transmission standard.

The challenging time includes FCC-related matters including the incentive auction and repack as well as possible revision of the commission’s retransmission consent rules.

“As the media industry becomes increasingly fragmented,” Smith said, ”it can be overwhelming to process all the information available to us.

“Notwithstanding this chaos, just as we’ve done in the past, broadcasters will continue to find opportunity in the choices we make,  choices that allow broadcasters to continue serving the American people — by covering emergencies and keeping communities safe; by raising awareness of the issues that impact their lives; by providing good jobs and essential information that contribute to our local and national economies; and, by uncovering government corruption and private abuses of power through in-depth investigative reports.

“Broadcasters take to heart the responsibility that the freedom of the press grants them under the First Amendment. They shine a light on injustice, on what’s wrong, and they empower citizens to take action.”

He went on to spell out challenges lying ahead, saying that the NAB must “fight for policies that will ensure a strong future for local radio and television stations. This is a pivotal year, as broadcasters and policymakers must weigh what’s at stake with the choices they make.”

He was referring to the FCC’s upcoming spectrum incentive auction. “Once the auction is concluded, we face another daunting challenge as, likely, a majority of remaining broadcasters will have to move their channel to make room for the wireless carriers.

“Now, policymakers should, and I believe will, ensure time and funds are sufficient to allow broadcasters to complete their moves — so that no viewer is left in the dark because a station is forced off the air or left to foot the bill for expenses that Congress did not intend and stations cannot afford.”

Next up on Smith’s agenda was television’s technical future “The FCC has another choice before it today. A choice that could make TV even stronger and expand its availability to our local communities on new platforms.

“It is no secret that NAB, along with many of our members, has been actively engaged in the development of an ATSC 3.0 — or next generation — standard.

“We are excited about the possibility of higher quality Ultra HD images, theater like immersive audio, interactivity, personalized services, mobility and more.

“The new standard is designed to better align broadcasting’s broadly deployed, spectrally efficient and free service with an increasingly IP based world, enabling broadcasting to more easily integrate into a wide array of popular devices.

“If successful, a new standard would drive competition with other wireless services and video and data providers.

“There is no other industry in the world like broadcasting. No other industry has, at its core, such an overarching focus on bringing communities together and serving the public good.

“No other media industry is as dedicated to supporting our local communities — not Google, not Apple, not Pandora, not cable or satellite.

“We don’t send a bill to our communities for all the services we provide.

“Remembering the passion and courage of broadcasters makes what we do worth fighting for.”

Read all of TVNewsCheck‘s NAB 2016 news here.

Comments (25)

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Gregg Palermo says:

April 18, 2016 at 3:39 pm

Not buying it. TV is a waste of spectrum because 90 percent of homes choose not to use the spectrum for TV. It would be better to subsidize a four-channel wired or satellite lifeline to those who cannot afford cable or satellite. Much more cost effective and far less wasteful of spectrum. As for emergencies, no DMA needs more than one or two signals for the rare weather event, assuming the tower isn’t knocked down. Broadcast TV is no longer essential to daily life.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    April 18, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    For spouting such forward thinking, it’s comical that you are still stuck in 20th Century when in comes to Residential Centric Thinking totally ignoring mobile.

    Ellen Samrock says:

    April 18, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    Oh, oh! “Subsidize”, as in getting something free but at the expense of other people’s pocket books. Looks like someone here is “feeling the Bern.” Isn’t ‘subsidize’ just a polite euphemism for freeloading? The government already has a plan for low income folks to get free TV, it’s called terrestrial broadcasting and it costs taxpayers nothing.

    Brian Bussey says:

    April 18, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    90 percent of homes choose not to use the spectrum for TV
    yeah, 90% and dropping because they refuse to pay for sky high subscribers fees. Using WiFi to watch reruns is supposed to be a “higher use ” of the spectrum ? you actually think that “retrains fees are going to survive the conversion to 3.0? Cable systems have way more leverage over cable networks than broadcast networks.

    Brian Bussey says:

    April 18, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    low income ? I know Doctors who are OTA only. They CHOOSE not to pay cable subscriber fees. This is hat happens when utilities and their super lobbys invaded news and entertainment. they are accustomed to telling the government what to do. They have always used to government to protect their invasion.

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    April 18, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    Of course, one could argue that broadcasters are being “subsidized” by the government since they get free spectrum to use while other spectrum users have to pay for theirs (all while broadcasters whine about their public service requirements…)

    Peter Grewar says:

    April 18, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    That 90% claim is now several years out of date, as the percentage has been dropping. Already, the percentage that subscribe to cable or satellite is down almost to 85%. In a couple of markets, it’s below 67%.

    Ellen Samrock says:

    April 18, 2016 at 7:56 pm

    Anyone who owns or has owned a station knows that broadcasters are NOT subsidized by the government. Just the opposite is true. Broadcasters pay for the use of their spectrum every year in the form of regulatory fees and, on a periodic basis, license renewal fees. Plus most broadcasters paid for spectrum at auction. And then there are the mandatory public interest obligations that broadcasters must perform. So, no, broadcasters are not subsidized by Uncle Sam. If you owned a station you would know that.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    April 18, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    @RidgelineTV – Most Companies who received Spectrum for “free” left Broadcasting for a Profit MANY years ago (Much like the Government offered Settlers in the West 40 Acres and a Mule to encourage the program). You continue with old, false, misleading arguments.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    April 18, 2016 at 9:10 pm

    @Onthesidelines. Incorrect on so many levels. TVB has a vested interest in OTA being as high as possible as it is the Organization that pushes for OTA Broadcast Sales – telling how many possible households are missed by using Cable Only Advertising. Despite a high OTA which would look better for their cause, their extensive research which can be found on their website shows that OTA National Average is only 11.8% – no where close to what you claim. They refuse to put out bad fake numbers to make them look better. Furthermore, they report the highest market OTA are Boise and Fairbanks, at 33% – right in the 67% are you quote. However, that number quickly drops to Brownsville at 27% and the #10 OTA (Duluth) market is at 22% and falling fast. In fact the Top 10 Markets for OTA are only 1.5% of the American TV Households. ALL Markets over 15% (your 85%) only amount to 22.7% of the USA TV Households. So please, do not post BS OTA numbers – that you even refuse to source (even if they were true – which they are not).

    Ellen Samrock says:

    April 18, 2016 at 9:10 pm

    BTW, for any who think the airwaves belong to the public, I would like to direct your attention to this article in B&C: “The Public Airwaves Myth.”—–

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    April 19, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    I’ll reiterate that broadcasters got their spectrum for free while others users (such as the wireless industry) paid for theirs. Feel free to refute that (which you haven’t). Paying regulatory feels and license renewals are not the same as buying spectrum. If you owned a station you would know that.

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    April 19, 2016 at 7:19 pm

    @Insider – Talk about old, false, misleading arguments, you seem to be full of them (as well as other stuff). All stations got their spectrum for free, no matter if a company just paid millions to buy that station. Those people bought the business, not the spectrum. Here’s what you can do to test this out – run a few porno movies on a licenses TV station and see if the FCC doesn’t revoke the license for that channel. You can argue that it’s your channel, but we all know how it will eventually turn out: you’ll lose the use of that spectrum and it will probably be assigned to someone else who will use it in the public’s best interest. By the way, brush up on your history, the 40 acres and mule plan was proposed for African Americans following the U.S. Civil War, not out west.

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    April 19, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    @ Roger Thornhole – If the airwaves can’t belong to the public, then they can’t possibly be owned by broadcasters either… see how that logic works? One thing is for sure, the government through the FCC can regulate usage of the airwaves – just as the government can and does regulate what can be pumped into the air (another no-see-um which can’t be “owned” by the public either).

    Ellen Samrock says:

    April 20, 2016 at 12:42 am

    If you want to engage in one of your childish food fights, Fringeline TV, you’re on your own.

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    April 20, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    @ Roger Thornhole – TRANSLATION: “I can’t argue any points intelligently, so I’ll stomp my feet and pout.”

    Wagner Pereira says:

    April 20, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    @RidgelineTV. Again, Governent has always given “early settlers” “new frontier” for free. The “early settlers” got free spectrum and operated it at a loss for years. Those in Broadcasting now paid those “early settlers” for what they had built. Given this was also done on most of the land in the USA, your argument would be for the Government to take back all the land, including your house, that it once gave away. Imagine that could wipe out the National Debt! But it would turn us into a Communist Country, which perhaps is your objective.

    Ellen Samrock says:

    April 20, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    You can reiterate all you want but that is not reality. That’s how you choose to see it which doesn’t mean anything.

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    April 21, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    @ Insider – Odd and incorrect analogy you have there. All the early land “pioneers” were given deeds to their land. Broadcasters were not and have never been given “deeds” to own their spectrum. They were given licenses to use the bandwidth and to use it in the public interest. As pointed out earlier, if broadcasters do not use the bandwidth in accordance with the government’s rules, they lose the usage of that spectrum For example, research WLBT and see how that worked out for them – here’s a hint, not so well. (Feel free to research other examples of license revocations here: )

    Wagner Pereira says:

    April 21, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    Sorry, but they were given essentially rights to renew that their license if they carried out the requirements of holding that license. No person would spent the money (and suffered the early losses) without that. Likewise, there are also many ways that the Government can take back private property.

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    April 21, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    You’re arguing in circles so much you’re probably dizzy… why would a broadcaster need to renew their license periodically if they “owned” their spectrum?? If spectrum belonged to broadcasters, they would just own it like land with no hoops to jump through. You used the example of early pioneers getting land from the government, equating that to broadcasters and spectrum – yet no one has to “renew” for their land deeds. Keep spinning… this is humorous…

    Wagner Pereira says:

    April 21, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    @Ridgeline – Do you need glasses as clearly you are the one who is dizzy? You are the only one used the word “owned”. Search the page yourself. As I stated, they have essentially leased the Spectrum for an infinite amount of time, with a check done every few years to make sure the terms and conditions for the lease are met. What the Auction Spectrum is accomplishing is breaking the infinite term of that “lease”, which is done every day in real businesses. Just like in property, don’t pay your taxes (or other debts) and find out how long you retain your property.

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    April 21, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    I guess you’re “new settlers” and “new frontier” argument (convoluted as it was) threw me a loop and made me dizzy… everything else you just wrote is exactly what I’ve been getting at.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    April 22, 2016 at 4:38 am

    You are really dizzy as nothing you have stated is what I posted. Guess you stating I used the word “owned” was just the first thing you were “seeing”. Someone that has an “indefinite” lease has essentially all the rights of ownership. If someone wants to break a lease, it requires a settlement – and in most cases that is a dollar figure, which is what the Auction is all about – Selling the Lease – or License – back to the FCC.

Ellen Samrock says:

April 18, 2016 at 4:25 pm

What Mr. Smith is saying is right on the money. But a pretty speech is not government policy. We saw this auction train wreck coming the day Obama unveiled the NBP nearly eight years ago (when you have a government paper that fraudulently under reports the number of over-the-air viewers while cherry-picking data that over estimates the needs of wireless spectrum, you know the industry is in the cross hairs). The NAB should have done something about it then instead of dithering and trying to take the pulse of its members, a pulse weakened by retrans revenue. Now it’s too late. The best we can hope for at this point is that the FCC will green light 3.0 and adopt a sensible band plan that will leave us enough spectrum to broadcast with.

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