NAB president Gordon Smith said Friday that the FCC is still
waiting to see inside the "black box" of the FCC's spectrum incentive
auction proposal, but that if the FCC chairman thinks there are a number of
broadcasters in big cities interested in selling their spectrum, it may be
predicated on the "misbegotten" belief that broadcasting is an
industry in decline. "That is simply false," he said.
"If there is a stampede coming, we are certainly not
hearing any hooves," he said. He said there has been some activity and
"some speculators entering the market." Smith said the FCC has not
taken a count of how many stations might be offering up spectrum. "What we
have heard from our members is how earnestly committed they are to the future
of the broadcast business."
"We're in uncharted territory," said Smith of the
auction. "We're inferring what this means and how it will work...If they set
the price too low, they may get no volunteers. If they set the price too low,
they may get no revenue from wireless broadband. Our focus," he said,
"is for it to be transparent as possible and make sure that in the
repacking, our members are protected if they choose to stay."
Smith was talking with reporters after the FCC voted to
launch it proposed framework for those auctions -- actually one auction as the
FCC is proposing it -- intended to voluntarily reclaim spectrum from
broadcasters for re-auction to wireless broadband.
Smith called it a historic day. "There has never been
an auction of this magnitude. We recognize that the FCC has a daunting task but
we are committed to working constructively with them to ensure its success and
the protection of those broadcasters who are not volunteers, who remain the
focus of our concern."
He said his hope, and the assurance the FCC has given them,
is that it will be a transparent process.
Smith alluded to NAB's skepticism about the professed
spectrum crunch, given what he said was "all the warehousing and
speculation." He said the real crisis looming was the impact of billing by
the bit. He said the future has "both signals [broadcast and broadband]
marching together to the benefit of the American people." FCC Chairman
Julius Genachowski had said something similar earlier Friday.
Saying NAB still needed to study it, Smith had no comment on
the FCC's request for comment on whether broadcasters would be given the option
of compensation for permitting more interference to their signal, which could
be interpreted as paying them to allow lesser quality service to their viewers.
"We need to look at that," said, and reserved
comment until NAB got more information.
The FCC has sought comment on how it should implement
Congress' requirement that it make all reasonable efforts to preserve coverage
areas. Smith said that NAB was assuming that would follow the DTV transition
standard of no more than 2% coverage loss.