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Fritts lays out priorities for successful DTV transition

Addressing the Advanced Television Systems Committee annual membership meeting last week in Arlington, VA, outgoing NAB president and CEO Edward Fritts laid out the association’s four priorities in bringing the transition to digital broadcasting to a conclusion. They include:

  • Deadlines that protect millions of Americans from losing access to local broadcasting;
  • Access to consumers for broadcast DTV programming carried on cable. Cable gatekeepers like Comcast and Time Warner should not be allowed to deny consumers access to any broadcast digital programming, he said. All free bits must flow to the consumer;
  • No cable head-end down-conversion of broadcast programming from digital to analog;
  • Broadcast flag protection to prevent pirating of high-quality programming that fosters migration away from free TV.

Fritts also used the occasion to dispel two “DTV myths.” The first myth is that broadcasters are “profiteering off of DTV spectrum.” The reality is that broadcasters have billions of dollars in “stranded capital” in the transition, he said. In the future, broadcaster might profit from DTV revenue, but currently it’s been a “considerable cash drain” on local broadcasters.

According to Fritts, the second DTV myth is that broadcasters seek to hold onto their analog spectrum. “Why would we want to do that?” he asked. “Why would local television stations want to pay tens of thousands of dollars in utility bills annually to send an analog and digital signal?”

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