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CEA CEO Gary Shapiro to Broadcasters: Support Digital or Else...

Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) President and CEO Gary Shapiro was the keynote speaker at the opening of the NAB 2004 Broadcast Engineering Conference and he used the opportunity to warn the broadcast engineers in attendance that broadcasters had to support digital, otherwise consumers will move from broadcast to cable and satellite services and "this room will be very empty" 11 years from now.

After grading CEA and broadcasters on various technology initiatives, ranging from AM stereo to HDTV, he expressed his concern that free over-the-air broadcasting was worse off now than it was a few years ago. Broadcast radio listening dropped due to competition from the Internet and satellite radio. Broadcast TV is being challenged by competition from broadband (cable and satellite), DVD and pay-per-view.

Shapiro listed some of the steps broadcasters need to take to meet the competition. He urged TV broadcasters to shift to high definition quickly and broadcast at full power. (See RF Report for November 3, 2003 for broadcasters response to the power issue.) Stations need to promote HDTV on their analog channels, and he also warned TV broadcasters to be cautious of doing anything but HDTV with their DTV channel and focus on the reality of the marketplace.

HDTV is what is driving the digital transition and CEA will oppose any non-HD use of DTV channels, Shapiro added. Broadcasters will have to promote free over-the-air television because as fewer viewers use antennas, the demands for the broadcast spectrum will increase. In addition to broadcast high definition video, Shapiro said broadcasters also must broadcast high definition Surround Sound.

Before concluding his talk with the warning about an empty NAB engineering conference hall in 2015, he urged broadcasters to work with CEA in protecting consumer home recording rights such as TiVo, saying consumers will reject services that limit these rights.