Fritts happy with NAB attendance

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The National Association of Broadcasters convention's projected attendance figure of 89,000
was a few thousand below last year's 92,000, but given the current
reluctance to travel internationally, the ongoing war and the overall state of
the economy, association president and CEO Eddie Fritts said he was "ecstatic"
with the number, calling the conference a success.

In a briefing on the show, Fritts commented on the broadcast-ownership-review
issue, which achieved a lot of attention at the convention.

Fritts suggested that whatever decisions the Federal Communications
Commission makes are far from set in stone, pointing out that no particular
deregulatory scheme or resulting consolidation was inevitable or permanent, since
the FCC has been told by Congress to review ownership rules every two years.

Fritts also refuted contentions offered during the show that broadcasters had
not stepped up to the plate on digital television.

Responding specifically to criticisms from the Consumer Electronics Association's Gary Shapiro, Fritts
countered that it was the CEA that had "renegged on their deal" to jointly promote
the digital-TV rollout.

And, he added, "Here's an organization whose members stand to benefit from
the largest transference of wealth in the history of telecommunications. If we
have digital tuners in every set going forward, we will conclude this
transaction in this decade."

Fritts did say digital-radio promotion was already in the works. "We
haven't yet gone to the receiver manufacturers," he noted, "but today would be a
good day to do that."

Fritts also accused the cable industry of taking an anti-competitive position
as gatekeeper regarding digital broadcasting, saying that with current cable
equipment inadequate for significant digital carriage, "their transition is more
technologically deficient than ours." When cable and the receiver industry step
up, he added, "this transition will go forward."


The Fritts Years

After an awesome 23-year run, NAB chief Eddie Fritts is about to step down. His record is awesome—but not flawless. He helped the industry shed onerous rules limiting the size and power of radio- and TV-station owners. At the end, however, he couldn't repair fissures that have divided broadcasters in fundamental ways.