Losing the race

Hey, I don't mind a race, but I want a fair race. And, I'm not against competition, in fact, I believe in competition. What's not good for anyone is when one industry is given unfair access to the customer through government mandate. That's called preferential treatment, not competition.

TV broadcasters continue to be, dare I use the word, discriminated against by the FCC. Broadcasters carry an unfair burden of antiquated, obsolete and burdensome legislation created by years of congressional, presidential and FCC mismanagement. Whether it's the costs of DTV implementation that no other industry has incurred, ownership caps that artificially affect market conditions, diversity/EEO/special treatments that restrict sales or the $500 million/year tax on analog broadcasters, TV broadcasters are increasingly being burdened by unreasonable regulations.

Broadcast Engineering recently hosted a DTV seminar where attendees examined the causes and effects of legislation, technology and market conditions on stations. What we learned is that stations are finding it increasingly difficult to remain profitable or even stay on the air with the new onerous conditions placed on them by Congress and the FCC. Let's take a closer look at a couple of the reasons broadcasters are struggling.

First, DTV is expensive. Every broadcaster I talk with mentions the money they've had to spend in converting to DTV. Many have invested huge sums, even millions of dollars, just to meet the FCC's arbitrary requirements to begin broadcasting DTV signals.

Second, while the FCC just loves regulating broadcasters, it avoids regulating cable. Just three years ago this month I blasted the ever-political suck-up FCC chairman William Kennard. I said then, “When it comes to protection from regulation, Kennard sucks up to cable like a newborn calf to a wet teat.” Three years later, even without that worthless chairman, the FCC is still doing the same thing. In fact, it's now added the consumer electronic manufacturers to that same suck-up list. “Let's not regulate DTV receiver performance. That's not within the FCC's prerogative,” says the Commission.

Third, market conditions are vastly different now then they were 10 years ago. Broadcasters need the freedom to build, buy, sell and group stations according to what the market needs, and not what some politician decides.

And please don't give me the crap about “It's the public's spectrum.” If you want to go down that path, I'll bury you in valid comparisons to other so-called public resources (like water, air, forests, land) and the industries that use them — all absolutely free. Broadcasters give back to their communities far more than what they are given credit for.

Broadcasters just want the chance to compete on a level playing field. Loosen the restrictions on doing simple business. Require others to operate under the same rules and guidelines as we must, and there will be no complaints. Failure by the Commission to allow broadcasters to compete equally will have catastrophic consequences.

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