CEA's Shapiro Buries and Praises Broadcasters

Says they did great job covering Boston massacre, but that they are obstructionists, of decreasing value, and should give up their spectrum
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Says they did great job covering Boston massacre, but that
they are obstructionists, of decreasing value, and should give up their
spectrum

"I
am not here to criticize broadcasting or broadcasters," Gary Shapiro
planned to tell a broadcaster audience at the Media Institute Monday in a
speech where he nonetheless repeatedly criticized broadcasting and
broadcasters.

According
to a prepared text of the speech, Shapiro suggested broadcasters were trying to
"maim" the incentive auctions by trying to slow them down, criticized
them for trying to "thwart" initial passage of incentive auction
legislation, and said broadcasters have "tried to distort and restrict
other industries' business models in a vain, and futile, and certainly costly
effort to preserve their own."

"Over-the-air
just isn't that important," he said. "What broadcasters value is not
the audience for free over-the-air commercials, it is the government mandate
that cable and satellite must carry or pay for their service. This is fine. It
may be better for everyone if many broadcasters relinquish their spectrum so it
can have bigger and wider uses than the tiny percent now getting their signal
over the air."

Shapiro
said broadcasters appeared to be employing all "every possible
strategy" to slow the auctions, and took aim at their criticism of the
FCC's proposed new software to calculate TV station coverage areas.

The
general criticisms were hardly new. Shapiro has been one of the loudest voices
calling for broadcasters to move off their spectrum, saying that spectrum was a
"loaner" anyway and that it is time that the government put it in the
hands of wireless companies
-- and all the consumer electronics devices powered by that service.

"As we've made crystal clear, our aim is to help the Commission have a successful auction as expeditiously as possible," said National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton. "Everyone who is actually focused on substance understands the complexities involved. We are engaged and working with our counterparts in the wireless and technology industries to solve the difficult challenges raised by this first-in-the-world auction."

Shapiro
also called on the FCC not to restrict participation in the auction, which puts
him on the same side with House Republicans who called on the FCC Monday not to
limit the ability of any carrier to bid for spectrum.

Shapiro,
in saying he did not come to criticize broadcasters, did give broadcasters a
pat on the back for their "accurate and compelling coverage of the Boston tragedy." but
also gave them the backhanded compliment of saying he loved and missed
"the shared and binding national experience that we had two generations
ago, when we had just a handful of channels to choose from."

He
also pointed out that CEA had worked with
broadcasters on the DTV transition -- giving a shout out to Media Institute
board member Dick Wiley who was instrumental in that transition.

He
also pointed out that they had stood together to defend free speech and both
were investors in Syncbak, which provides Web versions of TV signals to
authenticated cable subs.

But
the bottom line of his message, one now familiar to broadcasters, was that
broadcasting is a dinosaur whose journey to the tar pits can be delayed, but
not denied.

"It is natural to try to preserve the
status quo - especially when it is slipping away," he said.

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