Barrett on Broadcasting: Future Is Bright
So long as government does not pull the plug
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 6/26/2012 1:43:21 PM
That will be Barrett's message to the Hill, according to prepared testimony for a June 27 hearing on the future of video at which Barrett will represent the National Association of Broadcasters.
Barrett plans to point out to the House Communications Subcommittee that according to a recent study, almost a quarter (24%) of households headed by the next generation of TV watchers (18-34) rely on over-the-air reception, as well as the low income and minority families that are disproportionately over-the-air viewers.
"This is exciting news for broadcasters and should inform Congress as it oversees the Federal Communication Commissionâ€˜s management of spectrum allocated to free, over-the-air television."
Barrett warned that bills introduced by Sen. James De Mint (R-S.C.) in the senate (S.2008) and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) in the House (H.R.3675) deep-sixing must-carry retrans as well as media ownership rules would hurt broadcasters and unbalance the marketplace in favor of pay-TV providers.
"This law promotes fair competition in the video marketplace, is pro-consumer, and enhances the vibrancy of the nationâ€˜s free, over-the-air broadcast service, as Congress intended," he argues.
He will definitely not be preaching to the choir if the Republican staff memo is any indication. It argues that must carry-retrans is a government thumb on the scale and that if Congress does any deregulating, it should start there.
Barrett also says Congress needs to make sure that the FCC leaves a strong broadcast business in the wake of its auctions to reclaim and auctions some broadcast spectrum to wireless.
"The Commission must maintain a robust broadcasting system that continues to provide free and local television service to millions of viewers, while moving to provide a strong and fast wireless broadband system," he says. Key to that, says Barrett, is transparency. Broadcasters need to know how the auctions will be conducted and how will be repacked after the auction to know whether they want to participate in them. "Limiting the release of information about the mechanics of the incentive auction process will increase the likelihood that the incentive auction will not be successful," he says.
Among the other highlights of Barrett's view of the video future:
Broadcasting is a necessary complement to broadband, given that it is "the most spectrally efficient wireless delivery system for high demand content," including lifesaving info in times of emergency.
The FCC still needs to do a comprehensive spectrum inventory. Barrett points out that while broadcasters did not oppose the incentive auctions, it has never been convinced that repurposing broadcaster spectrum is a solution to the spectrum crunch -- NAB maintains wireless companies are warehousing spectrum.
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