Washington

Barrett on Broadcasting: Future Is Bright

So long as government does not pull the plug 6/26/2012 01:43:21 PM Eastern

Hearst Television President David Barrett says broadcasters
have a bright future, so long as the FCC gets the incentive auctions right and
Congress does not scrap the must-carry/retransmission consent regime or
exclusivity rules, as a couple of bills in Congress would do.

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 Commission‘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 nation‘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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