Pai Labels Replacing Broadcasting With Broadband 'Counterproductive'

Points to efficiency of one-to-many architecture in wide-ranging speech to NAB conference
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FCC commissioner Ajit Pai planned to tell a broadcast
assemblage in Dallas on Wednesday that it would be counterproductive to move
all broadcast services to broadband.

According to a copy of his prepared text for a speech to the
National Association of Broadcasters Radio Show, Pai says he believes that
broadcasting "should and will continue to play an important role in
America's media landscape," echoing his defense of the industry in an
interview with B&C/Multichannel News earlier in September.

And while Pai was addressing a radio group, he spoke more
broadly about the future of over-the-air.

"To be sure, the rise of broadband is having a
revolutionary impact on the lives of Americans," he planned to tell the
group. "And we at the Commission must aggressively pursue policies to
remove regulatory barriers to wireline and wireless broadband deployment. But I
don't view broadband as a substitute for broadcast. Instead, I see broadcast
and broadband as complements.

"Moving forward, it will make sense for some services
to be provided through broadcast and others via broadband," said Pai, but
not all. "[I]f we were to shift all of the services provided by
broadcasters to broadband, that would actually be counterproductive. It would make
our spectrum problems worse, not better. So that's not what the market will
demand. To give one obvious example, it is a much more efficient use of
spectrum to deliver high-demand programming like the Super Bowl through a
one-to-many broadcast than to provide it through millions of one-to-one
wireless broadband connections."

He was clearly preaching to the choir on that score. NAB has
been making that point for some time; FCC chairman Julius Genachowski is on the
record as saying he saw a future for broadcasting, though his eyes are clearly
on broadband as the go-to medium.

Pai was also likely to draw some applause for other
suggestions in the speech, including ending the "de facto" ban on
foreign investment in U.S. broadcast companies of more than 25%, instead reviewing
each case individually, eliminating cross-ownership rules, clearing up the
backlog of indecency complaints and the license renewals being held up by them.
Pai said that not only should the FCC clear up the complaints, but be clear
about how it was resolving them. "as we move forward, we must do so in a
way that is clear and easy to understand," he said. "This is
important for parents, and it's important for broadcasters. Vague standards
aren't in anyone's interest."

Pai was full of praise for broadcasters as he ticked off
their public service credits. "To broadcasters, localism isn't just a
slogan; it's your way of doing business," he said. "Broadcasters are
there day in and day out. They report the local news. They deliver the farm
report. They cover local college and high-school sports events. They create a
forum for debate on local issues. And off the air, broadcasters are often
pillars of the community. They help local charities raise money, sponsor Little
League teams, and pitch in at schools."

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