McAdams On: The Space Between... NAB Shows
4/9/2010 12:48:30 PM
No 12-month period between NAB Shows can
compare to the one just completed. More has happened to the television business over the last year than in any other during the industry’s history.
Television as we knew it inexorably changed.
First and foremost was the DTV transition. The 60-year use of sine waves to
transmit audio and video to virtually every household in the United States
ceased and was replaced by digital code. The colossality of the operation
remains truly mind-boggling, and as such, negligibly appreciated by
non-engineers. Especially those in Washington, D.C., regulating the industry
and making like Yul Brenner doing Rameses II. “So let it be written... yada
Some events are just too big to be news. The comedian Eddie Izzard has a succinct
theory of scale: “Kill one person, that’s murder you go to prison. Kill 10, you
go to Texas and they hit you with a brick; 20 people, you go to a hospital,
they look at you through a small window... forever. Over that, we can’t deal
with it... kill 100,000 people we’re almost going, ‘well done, well done. You
killed 100,000 people? You must get up
early in the morning. I can’t even get down to the gym.’”
The DTV transition had similar qualities. It got around 30 seconds of mention
on the “Today” show the day of. Households around the country lost reception,
but we’d already become aware that those folks don’t count in Washington.
Because they’re not as likely to fork over burgeoning subscription fees to see
TV shows on cell phones, the service providers for which have Washington, D.C.
regulators in circus-like headlock.
So it was that scant weeks after the DTV transition, the FCC decided to launch
a campaign to destroy over-the-air TV in the guise of providing every man,
woman and child in the United States with free and fabulous wireless broadband
Well done. Well done, indeed!
The transparency and disingenuousness of the National Broadband Plan, the
brainchild of FCC chief Julius Genachowski, has been raised here before. Props
to Genachowski and staff for turning out a 376-page position statement rather
than some bullet-pointed principle sheet per FCCs of the past. However, the
document is not, per se, a true “broadband plan,” but a philosophical argument
It contains only anecdotal claims regarding the imagined spectrum shortage used
to justify reallocating broadcast frequencies. Anecdotal claims coming straight
from the cell phone providers who stand to make a killing on that spectrum,
while they simultaneously crush broadcast competition in the mobile video
Whether the broadcast industry deserves to continue using the spectrum for
television and its emerging iterations is neither here nor there. Plenty of observers
have flat foreheads from pounding them on the wall as broadcasters frittered
away the unprecedented marketing opportunity that was the DTV transition. And
after Freeview swept the
United Kingdom. The industry itself is by no means without blame for leaving
itself so vulnerable.
The thing that galls about the National Broadband Plan is the phantasmagorical,
Utopian double-speak with which it’s being proffered. That ubiquitous, wireless
broadband can even be achieved in this country, much less that it will resolve
our economic woes, revolutionize health care and re-establish the United States
as the world leader in everything.
The National Broadband Plan is a way for cell-phone companies, and by
extension, Wall Street, to make more money. Nothing wrong with that. No moral
judgment here. That’s what we do here in the U.S. of A. We look for ways to
It’s just that, well, technically, the government isn’t supposed to favor one
industry over another, but we all know better. It happens all the time. It
would just be nice for a change if it came down more like a Hollywood divorce.
“Look, broadcasting. We’ve had some good times together. Remember color TV?
That was great... but look. I’ve met someone new. Someone younger, and who
makes me feel younger. Now don’t cry... it’s not as if you didn’t see the
And then broadcasting makes like Angela Bassett’s Bernadine in “Waiting to
See you at the “nab” show, people.