CEA'S Shapiro: Broadcasters Have Terrified Hill With Power To Demonize Legislators
Continued to push for reclaiming broadcast spectrum for wireless broadband in C-SPAN interview Friday
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 1/14/2011 4:09:00 PM
That came in an interview for C-SPAN's Communicators series, where he talked about both his association policies and his new book, "The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream."
Shapiro said the push by the FCC and administration for more spectrum is the exact right thing to do given the coming spectrum crunch and given that broadcasters are using their "borrowed" spectrum to reach less than 10% of American homes, and can deliver their signals via cable and satellite, and with the help of electronics companies' help, locally over the Internet.
What about another new delivery system for broadcasters--mobile DTV--which requires spectrum and creates opportunities for consumer electronics companies supplying the receivers? Shapiro said mobile TV is possible. He pointed out that Qualcomm tried it "and it didn't work out." He conceded it had worked in other cultures "where people are more used to watching TV on the go," but he said the more likely on-the-go video service would be over the Internet.
But Shapiro also argued that broadcasters haven't really gotten behind the service or promoted it, but if they do he thinks it is supportable with the kind of spectrum slicing and dicing he advocates.
Asked by Telecommunications Reports Senior Editor Paul Kirby about his quote at the CEA convention in Las Vegas earlier this month that broadcasters were spectrum "squatters," and asked how tough it would be for the government to get that spectrum back, Shapiro said that broadcasters are a "phenomenal political lobby" and have "terrified members of Congress with their power to use their broadcast signals in a way which demonizes members of Congress.
"The National Association of Broadcasters has no interest in responding," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton.
Shapiro said there was nothing in the Constitution granting viewers a right to get their TV over the air. "One of our dangers is that people think they have all sorts of rights that perhaps they really don't have." But the point is to prioritize, he said. "No American should die for lack of healthcare," he said, "but, is an American going to die because they don't have a free, over-the-air television signal? Hardly."
He pointed out that was a debate during the DTV transition--CEA opposed the $2 billion program to subsidize converter boxes so over-the-air viewers could continue to get a signal. "Definitely there should be a type of service," he said. "But it is certainly clear now that the billions of dollars that were spent were pretty much wasted."
That said, he supports paying broadcasters, likely billions, to exit the spectrum, and supports the necessary congressional legislation to do so. He says he thinks it will take leadership from the administration and making the incentive auctions a national priority. He says there will be a battle between broadcasters and the government over their relative take from those auctions, but he believes Congress will resolve the issue.
Shapiro said he was proud of the DTV transition, and even says his tombstone will be 16 by 9 (the aspect ratio of an HDTV set), and believes that the government will be able to repack remaining broadcasters in less spectrum as part of the reclamation effort.
Shapiro was asked whether it wasn't also incumbent upon his member companies to be more efficient with the spectrum they already have. He said there have been increases in what technology can do, but there are boundaries of physics that they are running up against. He said he thought the country was already on the verge of a spectrum crisis in some places today, particularly given the rise in HDTV video over the Internet. "We need the spectrum," he said.
Where the government isn't getting it right, he says, is in a combination of spending policies and anti-business rhetoric that have not exactly helped the country.
"When you use the phrase greed in conjunction with the word business," said Shapiro, "that sends the wrong message" to the public. He says that business has been demonized over the past couple of years "because of a few bad apples."
He also pointed to policy issues. "Look, we've had two unwinnable wars, stimulus packages, corporate bailouts, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Cash For Clunkers, all we've done is spend. Any business person knows that is totally unsustainable." So, he says, "you have leadership that's demonizing our business, and spending that is crippling our future, and you have a major problem ahead of you, and the business community, it's fair to say, is pretty concerned about that."
Why is he speaking out on those broader economic issues? Shapiro said that his board has agreed that the association's strategy is to say that the only thing that matters to the innovation economy is the health of the U.S. economy, and there some concerns there that need addressing. "I am speaking on behalf of the industry," he said.
There is nothing in the Constitution granting greedy monopolies to corner the market on something for their own gain either. We already have HDTV OTA so why the heck do we need it on mobile broadband. So more people can have accidents while watching TV and texting while driving. All it is so they can get rich off of it. This is wrong in many ways.
He says that only 10% of people get their HD OTA. That means 90% get HD on pay TV. So what other reason besides greed is he wanting to do this.
Jedi Master - 1/15/2011 4:41:58 AM EST
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