NAB’s Smith warns on Internet, spectrum

Delivering the annual NAB State of the Industry address as the 2012 NAB Show got under way, NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith warned that while there had been success on two major issues facing broadcasters, the industry should never rest on its laurels.

“Working in unity – small and large market stations – networks and affiliates – together with radio stations across the country – we averted a spectrum grab from misguided friends who would have you believe that broadcasting is yesterday’s technology,” he declared.

“Earlier this year, we witnessed a debate that pitted the content community against the technology community – you may have heard of SOPA and PIPA, they became household names overnight. The idea behind SOPA and PIPA was simple and straightforward: Don’t steal our creative content. But it didn’t matter. The technology community – the Googles and Wikis – used their medium just as we did – to create a powerful megaphone to change forever how battles are won, or lost, inside the Beltway,” he said. “Like us, they used every tool at their disposal to sway public opinion. “They changed the debate. Shockingly, ‘Thou shalt not steal’, became ‘Do not censor the Internet’, he said.

“I share this to remind you that while we have been successful on two major issues facing broadcasters, we should never rest on our laurels. Our recent victories were indeed game-changers. Recent press reports quote the telecommunications industry saying the spectrum legislation passed by Congress is only the beginning – a ‘down payment’ of what they’re seeking in terms of access to the airwaves,” he advised.

With his address covering what he described as “broadcasting’s vibrant future,” he said that on the TV side, the industry needed to be aggressively pushing mobile and ultra HD. “I was thrilled to hear just this morning that more stations and networks have joined the effort to launch mobile in 35 markets. Delivering live, local and national news, sports and our great shows to viewers on the go – this is where our business is going,” he suggested.

“We must continue to look for ways to integrate the power of broadcasting and broadband to improve the viewer experience. “Our adversaries – your competitors – are doing this. They’re smart. They’re ruthless. And they are well-financed,” he warned.

“Ubiquity tomorrow must mean broadcasting’s availability to all people at all times in all places and on all devices. The current broadcasting model can be undone by technology… or government… or some unintended consequence from either,” he said.

Noting that the wireless industry wanted to replicate what broadcasters do, “in fact, they are developing their own mobile-TV network,” he advised, adding “they say they need more spectrum. And they could get what they want, pending approval from the government,” he warned.

“So let me get this straight. Wireless carriers want to roll out a mobile TV service, just like ours. And they are asking the government for more of our spectrum to do it. And their service, most assuredly, would not be free. It seems to me that the government could be in the position of picking the wireless industry as the winner and the consumer as the loser. Here’s the problem: Even with all the spectrum in the universe, the wireless industry’s ‘one-to-one’ architecture could never match our ability to broadcast voice and video to the masses. Broadband can never replicate the lifeline role of the local broadcaster,” he stated.

Declaring that “the future is bright,” Smith said that broadcasting was evolving onto new platforms – not just on mobile phones. “We also need to be on tablets, laptops and game consoles and on mobile devices not yet developed. We expect our newly-launched NAB Labs will be at the forefront of this initiative to push the limits of broadcasting. We will provide a platform for innovation and for testing new technology,” he suggested.

 

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