Spectrum Policy Gets "F" in Preparedness


The 9/11 Public Discourse Project has given spectrum policy an F grade in emergency preparedness, which it will upgrade to a C+ if current DTV transition hard-date legislation passes.

That legislation would set a 2009 date for the end of analog transmissions. When that happens, the goverment will give some of the reclaimed spectrum to first responders and use some of the money from auctions of the rest to help fund new equipment for them.

The 9/11 Public Discourse Report (not to be confused with the original 9/11 report) recommends a 2007 hard date, saying 2009 is "too distant given the urgency of the threat."

The project is made up of former members of the 9/11 commission who continue to push for reforms to prevent a similar terrorist attack.

Project Chairman Thomas Kean teamed with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to stump the news-show circuit for an earlier hard date.

Responding to that grade, part of a final report on the project's findings, House Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Tex.) put in some good words for his Republican-backed bill.

Conceding that there had been ongoing interoperability problems, he said that "the benefits of adopting a hard date for the digital television transition are numerous and significant. For years, our first responders have had to make do with antiquated radio equipment while waiting for the airwaves they were promised. Our digital-television transition bill will make it easier for these public servants to catch criminals, fight fires and save lives."

The House bill provides $500 million for first-responder equipment, which Barton also pointed to. The Senate bill, however, would provide double that amount.

In the same report, Ken Tomlinson's efforts at the Board for International Broadcasting got pretty high marks. The government got a B for international broadcasting operations to the Arab and Muslim world that were launched under Tomlinson, who chairs the Broadcasting Board of Governors. The report pointed to growing budgets and audience shares but added that "we need to move beyond audience size [and] expose listeners to new ideas and accurate information about the U.S. and its policies, and measure the impact and influence of these ideas."