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."
Smith: TV For All, Not Broadband For Some
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.