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12.15.2008
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Tough times ahead for broadcasters as Obama gears up

While we await new appointments to the FCC and other technology positions in the Obama administration, the new government is moving fast on many fronts.

The president-elect last week called for major advancements in Internet connectivity through his public works program. He said he expects to lift the United States from the 15th position in the world to first. He has also called for net neutrality protections and a tightening of rules that prevent media ownership diversity — both areas that would reverse Republican FCC policies.

Members of the Obama transition team also last week turned to the DTV transition, a situation they will inherit less than a month after the new president is sworn in. Several Obama transition team officials met with broadcasters, cable operators and broadcasting trade groups in Washington on the subject.

Led by Tom Wheeler, former president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the meeting brought together officials of the NAB, the NCTA, the CEA and executives of Walt Disney, CBS, NBC Universal, Gannett, LIN TV, FOX and Northwest Broadcasting. None of the participants would comment on what occurred in the meeting.

However, according to an exclusive report by “TVNewsday,” Wheeler suggested that the broadcast industry pick up the cost for the call centers during the transition. Broadcasters, he said, are the beneficiaries of billions of dollars worth of free spectrum, and cable operators are gaining more subscribers because of the transition. He also noted that the consumer electronics industry is reaping billions of dollars from the sale of DTV products.

The cost of DTV call centers is expected to be very expensive. FCC chairman Kevin Martin promised to dedicate much of the additional $20 million Congress gave the agency for DTV education to fund the agency’s call center. The Obama transition team feels this is not nearly enough to do the job.

Wheeler was joined at the meeting by fellow Obama transition members Larry Irving, Larry Strickling, Susan Crawford and Kevin Werbach.


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