CES 2011

NAB’s Smith Blasts Shapiro Over Spectrum

The broadcasting lobbyist says that Consumer Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro's opening speech accusing TV broadcasters of "squatting now on our broadband future" misses the mark. “He simply sees a world of wireless broadband, and that’s just not what the future holds,” Smith said. And the NAB chief also accused Shapiro of being out of touch: “He apparently was writing a book and missed the cord-cutting phenomenon."

NAB President Gordon Smith fired back at Gary Shapiro after the CEA President used the opening session of the CES convention today to blast broadcasters for resisting efforts of the FCC to take back broadcast spectrum needed to fuel the growth of wireless broadband.

“They are squatting now on our broadband future,” Shapiro said before thousands in Las Vegas Hilton.

Following the speech, Smith said Shapiro is not giving broadcasting its due credit. “He simply sees a world of wireless broadband, and that’s just not what the future holds.”

According to Smith, the future includes broadcasting’s mobile DTV as a free, one-to-many complement to the wireless broadband.

“He [Shapiro] apparently was writing a book and missed the cord-cutting phenomenon,” he said, tweaking Shapiro for the relentless promotion of his just published The Comeback at the convention. The book, which argues for government policies that promote technological innovation, also attacks broadcasters for not handing over their spectrum for wireless broadband.

“Video on demand is wonderful,” Smith said. “We all enjoy that. We also like video live. But I want to watch the Super Bowl when it’s happening. There are many things that I want locally and free … that broadcasting still provides. “


Smith refused to consider the notion that broadcasters would somehow fail to deliver on their promise of delivering mobile DTV service this year. “You’re going to see a tremendous amount of rollout and we are excited to be a part of that. We are filling the spectrum that we were given. “

Smith suggested that the government and the wireless broadband proponents look elsewhere for spectrum. “Nobody has given back spectrum like we have, nearly a third in the digital transition. We already gave at the office.”

According to Smith, broadcasters’ problem is that Congress continues to see the recovery and auctioning of spectrum as a bank. “Spectrum was the pay-for of every member of Congress’s new spending idea. I suspect that it will be again.”

That will keep the pressure on broadcasters’ spectrum, most of which is ideal for wireless broadband use. The FCC has proposed that broadcasters who voluntarily return some or all of their spectrum to the government be given a share of the auction proceeds.

Smith said he has no objections to such so-called incentive auctions, but he cautioned broadcasters who are tempted to go for the deal: “Make sure the check clears, because between you and the money is something called the United States Congress.”

Comments (14)

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Matthew Castonguay says:

January 6, 2011 at 4:22 pm

I get the real government agenda, which is to generate revenue for the treasury. But not sure where Shapiro is coming from? At the end of the day, whether the future is a grotesquely inefficient use of spectrum for point-to-point 100% broadband delivery of video, or a blended broadcast (point-multipoint) + broadband scenario, new devices will be required. Either way, new market opportunities for CES members. Why is the head of CES becoming the loudest drumbeater for the FCC agenda? Calling all reporters.

    Robert Crookham says:

    January 6, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    It’s actually very easy to see where Shapiro is coming from. He represents the industry (mostly off-shore) which makes electronic toys and gadgets, and he perceives that his member would be able to sell many more toys if they could confiscate the broadcast spectrum. Not only that, but eliminating broadcasters would eliminate competition, and he’s all for that. Never mind the threat to a truly well-informed public, the threat to public safety and homeland security–let’s sell more toys!

    Christina Perez says:

    January 6, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Gordon Smith used the magic words: “FREE TV.” The broadband greedsters wouldn’t stand a chance if NAB and TvB touted “free TV” and free HDTV.” But broadcast lobbyists have been reluctant to do so, because the parent companies of broadcast stations secretly would like to turn all TV into pay TV (remember Les Moonves’ prediction that the big networks would become pay services in a decades?)

    Broadcasting earned its reputation as a sacred public trust because of its universal availability and commitment to localism — and because it is FREE TO ALL.

    Mr. Smith, get your members to pledge that ALL broadcast stations will remain totally free, regardless of the receiving device, and you will ensure that broadband greedsters never win the spectrum war.

    Matthew Castonguay says:

    January 7, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Well, my point was that mobile DTV requires devices too…hybrid broadcast/mobile broadband devices. Not clear to me how that isn’t just as lucrative/exciting for CE manufacturers.

Kim Cavaliere says:

January 6, 2011 at 4:23 pm

A spectrum auction is like a tax on the US citizen. The corporations that “buy” it will recoup that expense by taxing the public with service and subscriber fees. Keep the airwaves free. They belong to the American people

mike tomasino says:

January 6, 2011 at 4:30 pm

The CEA needs to vote their clueless loser president out!!!

Ellen Samrock says:

January 6, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Presumptuous little guy, ain’t he? What I don’t understand is how the head of the CEA can blast broadcasters for occupying spectrum that is legally licensed to them by the government just as consumer electronics makers are rolling out products for Mobile DTV. It’s a total contradiction and a prime example of someone has let his mouth run at full throttle while leaving his brain in neutral.

Warren Harmon says:

January 6, 2011 at 5:32 pm

I am betting IT WILL cost him his job, the american people want Free OTA and with the Quality these days they are re-discovering the antenna.

    Dante Betteo says:

    January 11, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    Great for areas between two majormarkets

jeff lee says:

January 6, 2011 at 7:58 pm

CEA (pronounced see-ya) is seeing its market share of new tv’s dropping steadily. Shapiro is interested in one thing “Selling Products”.

Dante Betteo says:

January 7, 2011 at 9:47 am

I have never put my Antenna away. Any type of TV the comes from the cell phone or Broadband internet sound like it will cost me plenty. Leave the Spectrum Alone. You already have Channels 52 to 69. If braodband need more space, then go up in fequency.

Amy Davis says:

January 7, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Who is going to pay (again) for the work that the broadcasters will have to do in order to redo their transmitters, antennas and transmission lines that will be obsoleted when (if) they get kicked off their current DT channel assignments on 32-51? The FCC and its shortsightedness (or alternative plans that nobody has any ideas on) concerning the issues are are being faced by the current VHF licensees and the large-market RF-availability starvation issues. IF, and I mean IF, the FCC is allowed to DICTATE to the people, then we, as a country, are no longer a true republic as was set up by our forefathers. Those that scream how the broadcasters are ruining this country are the same that are selling this country to the highest bidder. Currently, channels 51-83 are now gone to other services…the BAS band and anything having to do with free-OTA TV is being attacked and desmembered in bits and pieces, day by day. IF our representatives DO NOT pay attention to what’s happening, we’ll lose what we have in no time flat and if the folks think that Internet will save them, wait ’til there’s no more competition for the eyes and ears except what they offer. Then truly, you’ll know what censorship is all about. Can’t AFFORD the cost? Too bad for your message. Next bidder? How much you willing to spend? OK, just add another zero to that and you’re golden. Yep…free speech. Put that right up there along with the display of the Dodo bird. They’ll make a nice pair of bookends.

June Perla says:

January 8, 2011 at 2:29 pm

give the public free mobile tv and they(the public) will beg OEMs and content providers for products — hence, everyone (including advertisers) will win

Dante Betteo says:

January 11, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Hey thelonepunman, I agree with you!