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04.29.2004
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
NAB president calls on cable industry to ‘tear down that wall,’ carry local DTV, HD signals

NAB president and CEO Edward Fritts called on the FCC to “make a decision on cable DTV carriage” and for cable companies to “pick up our signals and pick up the pace of progress” in remarks opening NAB2004 in Las Vegas.



NAB president and CEO Edward Fritts asks the audience during his opening ceremony speech to visualize a world where access to video news and entertainment and radio came only from cable, satellite and Internet sources that cost consumers $135 per month.

Fritts outlined many of the accomplishments of broadcasters and pointed to challenges facing the industry as it undergoes its historic transition from analog to digital service.

Acknowledging the strides the commission and the industry have jointly made on the path to digital television broadcasting, Fritts cited the association’s embrace of FCC Chairman Michael Powell’s voluntary DTV plan, the FCC mandate of digital tuners in consumer sets and the plug-and-play decision as evidence of regulatory progress. “Yet it is mystifying why the FCC continues to delay action on perhaps the biggest decision of all: cable must-carry of DTV and multicast signals,” he said.

According to Fritts, of the nearly 1200 local stations transmitting DTV, only one-third are carried on local cable systems.

“Our DTV and high-definition signals are all dressed up with no place to go,” he said. “I call on the FCC to break down the cable industry’s digital dam, and let the free broadcast signals flow.”

Echoing the words of former President Ronald Reagan in remarks at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin, Fritts addressed the cable industry. “Here’s our message to (Comcast CEO) Brian Roberts and leaders of the cable cartel: Tear down that wall! Stop blocking consumer access to the best TV pictures the world has ever seen.”

Fritts also asked broadcasters to visualize a world where access to video news and entertainment and radio came only from cable, satellite and Internet sources that cost consumers $135 per month.

“Now imagine that a new wireless technology came along and declared: ‘We will give you free television. We will give you free radio. We will give you free local news, free local weather reports and school closings as they happen.

‘What’s more, we will be a leading contributor to the local community. We will be as local as the bakery, the car dealership, the church or synagogue. We will volunteer billions of dollars of public service every year, and help raise hundreds of millions for charity.

‘We will be the first responders in getting out information on local emergencies, such as tornadoes and terrorist attacks...We will be the community’s local lifeline.’

“My friends, if this new technology called broadcasting came along today, it would be hailed as a miracle. It would be the darling of legislators and regulators,” he said.

For more information visit www.nabshow.com.

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