NAB CEO Gordon Smith Delivers Inaugural State of the Industry Address


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With the many advancements coming to wireless that use spectrum more efficiently, you have to ask, what makes this spectrum grab -- and the disruption and loss of innovation it would cause -- really necessary?

You know, when our son, Garrett, was in kindergarten, he and I went to a Monday Night Football game in Seattle. It's one of my fondest memories.

While we were there, I needed some cash, so we went to an ATM machine, inserted the card, punched in some numbers and out came the cash.

While walking away and putting the cash in my wallet, Garrett began tugging on my shirtsleeve and asking, "Daddy, don't you want to try it again? We're getting rich here!"

Broadcasting is not an ATM that can keep spitting out spectrum. There is a minimum we need in order to be viable for the future, and to sustain the enduring value of free and local television.

If there is a broadband problem, we volunteer to help solve it. But let's make sure we do it right. Let's first get a comprehensive inventory of unused spectrum, as key lawmakers have suggested. Let's explore whether digital compression technologies and other innovations can solve this alleged spectrum shortage, without forcing broadcasters off the air.

As broadcasters, we were prepared to embrace an FCC broadband plan that was truly voluntary. But how voluntary is it when the plan says, and I quote:

"The government's ability to reclaim, clear and re-auction spectrum is the ultimate backstop against market failure and is an appropriate tool when a voluntary process stalls entirely."

This sounds about as voluntary as Marlon Brando saying in the Godfather that he wanted either the guy's signature or his brains on the contract.

Moreover, the broadband plan doesn't fully take into account the unparalleled lifeline service that broadcasters provide in times of crisis.

Make no mistake: this matter is one of homeland security. During times of emergencies, there is no way that cell phone and broadband networks will ever be as reliable as broadcasting in terms of delivering timely and accurate information to the masses.

Indeed, having DTV receivers in mobile devices - along with FM radio capability in cell phones -- would help to make America safer. These advancements demonstrate broadcasting's ability to adapt to changes in the marketplace.

The sad truth is that the people who would be most hurt by the new broadband plan are the disadvantaged and the elderly. Fifteen percent of households rely exclusively on free, over the air television. And that number appears to be growing, post DTV transition.

We're hearing anecdotal stories across America of people disconnecting cable and satellite services because of all the free digital and HD broadcast channels you receive with just an antenna.

Another thing. As you know, broadcasting is regulated to observe community standards of decency. Broadband is not. The unpleasant truth is that the Internet is rampant with lewd and degrading material.

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