Damn nuts

Everything in Washington, D.C., regarding the plan to sell pieces of spectrum is nuts, including the politicians in charge of it.
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We've all been tripped up by something to which we should have seen or paid attention. Perhaps you locked your keys inside the car because your mind was somewhere else. Or, maybe you tripped over a child's toy because it wasn't picked it up before bedtime. I once walked out of a restaurant without paying the tab because my mind was on someone I'd just met.

We laugh when an actor slips and falls or bumps into something. Some comedians even become famous for their physical gags of falling and clowning around. It's for that reason that Dick Van Dyke is one of my favorite actors. He has the unique gift of physical humor. His tripping, falling and then catching himself always brings a smile to my face.

However, when one experiences firsthand a trip and fall that seemed comical on TV, the result is seldom as funny.

Being a serious runner for about 35 years, at up to 2000 miles per year, my body is telling me to cut back. So, as a partial replacement, I occasionally ride a bicycle instead. Biking is strictly my second choice, but how hard can it be?

As I learned in mid-October, the biking part isn't hard. It is the sudden stop that can hurt.

I was racing along the local trails when a personal encounter with a couple of small objects caused me to better understand an important difference between running and biking. The human body is moving much faster when on a bike.

Near the end of a 30-miler, my front tire rode over a pile of raw walnuts, causing me to flip over the bike and meet the trail chest first. I realize it's possible to use Newton's second law of motion to predict the force that was applied to a moving object (me) when (not if) I fell off my bike: F = M * A. However, college physics wasn't exactly on my mind at the time.

So, sitting here now in some amount of pain, I draw a perhaps loose parallel with my fall and the broadcast spectrum. For more than 80 years of pretty much repeatedly doing the same thing, quite well I might add, broadcasters now find themselves in a race for viewers against new competition. Broadcasters are discovering they need to move much faster, do more things and add new services — all in an effort to remain profitable and hold on to their audiences. In other words, stations now have to work harder and ride faster.

Unfortunately, there may be a few nuts along that path that could trip up even the best broadcast manager. Those nuts include competition, politicians and bureaucrats.

The mobile industry cries for more spectrum, saying there is a crisis. Politicians say government needs more money. It's a crisis. Worst of all, the bureaucrats say, “Don't worry. We have the solution to both crises. Shrink the TV band, and sell the spectrum.”

That solution would force TV stations to go out of business, combine operations and change channels so the spectrum can be auctioned for tens of billions of dollars. The entire scenario might be funny if the results were not so painful for broadcasters — and American viewers.

A recent report claims that without a multiscreen broadcast strategy, TV stations are missing out on 78 percent of the potential audience. These viewers comprise one billion computers and four billion mobile users.

Unfortunately, broadcasters will never be able reach these audiences if the ‘nuts’ in Washington have their way.

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