NAB in full battle mode to protect broadcasters’ spectrum

In a speech that came a short time after the FCC chairman’s address, NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith told broadcasters Tuesday that his group is in “full battle mode” to protect broadcasters from involuntary actions to take their spectrum by the federal government.

“If a station simply can’t make it and it volunteers to sell its spectrum, that’s fine — as long as it doesn’t harm another station that wants to stay in business and is excited about the future,” Smith said in his “State of the Industry” keynote speech. “The problem is that what is voluntary for the former could become involuntary for the latter.

“It concerns us that the FCC could forcibly relocate a broadcaster, crowd channels closer together, reduce their coverage, destroy innovation for viewers, increase interference or otherwise degrade their signal. This endangers our digital future, and violates President Obama’s promise to prevent a world of digital haves and have-nots.”

Smith said there is not enough spectrum in the universe to replace broadcasting’s one-to-many system with a one-to-one transmission architecture. “Even the wireless companies themselves concede they will need to eventually use some of their spectrum in a broadcast-type architecture, specifically for sending mass appeal video content to smart phones,” Smith said.

“Broadcasting already has the architecture, and it’s worked for more than 60 years. What sense does it make to take spectrum that is being used efficiently and use it less efficiently?” he asked. “Is that a public good?”

Smith asked where exactly — other than in dense urban markets like New York and Los Angeles — is this great spectrum shortage? He claimed it’s “certainly not” in rural America. “Wireless carriers are talking about a ‘looming spectrum crisis’ these days. For whatever reason, they seem to have found a sympathetic ear in Washington,” Smith said.

Smith said the United States really has a capacity crunch, not a spectrum crisis. “The fact, he said, “is there has been more spectrum allocated to mobile broadband than there is capital to deploy it.”