According to an essay
being circulated by the American TV Alliance, broadcast TV needs to be
deregulated, but primarily so it can fall off its own weight.
ATVA is populated by cable operators, satellite operators, and others seeking
reforms to the retrans system they say benefits broadcasters to the detriment
of cable operators and their customers.
In the paper, released Monday and authored by former FCC Chief Economist Tom
Hazlett, the broadcast TV system is "a needless expense, propped up not by
customer demand, technical efficiency, or business necessity, but legacy
regulation generations outdated."
Friday is the deadline for comments to the FCC on its proposals to clarify the
good faith bargaining it is empowered to enforce in retrans negotiations, but
Hazlett was not waiting to tell the FCC what he thought of them, which includes
that the opportunity cost of allocating 49 channels to broadcasting is an
estimated $1 trillion in social welfare. "[P]rotecting broadcast TV in a
world where â€˜broadcast TV' is already an anachronism and video programs are
themselves fleeing to new media is not a good way for the government to support
the emerging markets of the 21st Century."
The FCC under Chairman Julius Genachowski has also been talking up the value of
broadcast spectrum in other hands, namely wireless broadband companies.
ATVA commissioned the essay from Hazelett, who is currently a professor at George Mason University outside Washington.
"We're not surprised the pay TV lobby has funded another author to support
the ludicrous notion that local broadcasting is a 'needless expense,' "
said National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton. "The
reality is that ATVA's members are threatened by cord-cutting and the multicast
free DTV options offered by broadcasters. Given the exceptional performance of
broadcasters in saving lives during tornado season, we look forward to a debate
over whether local television is unimportant."