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Shapiro calls on broadcasters to make quick shift to HDTV

Addressing the NAB Engineering Committee April 18, Consumer Electronics Association President and CEO Gary Shapiro told his audience at NAB2004 that “broadcasting is much worse off” than it was the last time he addressed the industry gathering in 1993.

“Then, television broadcasters held roughly 69 percent of total television viewing time,” he said. “Today, their (broadcasters’) market share is down to 45 percent.”

Television broadcasting faces a number of challenges, including cable, satellite, and the Internet – especially in the form of broadband service, Shapiro said.

“Simply put, broadcasting as a medium is challenged,” he said.

Shapiro outlined eight suggestions for broadcasters to survive. They include:

  • Shift to HDTV quickly.By the end of decade, 90 percent of U.S. homes will have DTV over-the-air tuners, he predicted. Why lose market share to those with full-time HDTV service, such as HBO? Additionally, Shapiro called on stations to broadcast DTV signals at full power.
  • Be cautious of anything but HDTV.“The market has spoken,” he said. “Americans want the best, and that is HDTV.” He cautioned the audience that the CEA will oppose any proposal that makes current HDTV receivers obsolete.
  • Promote over-the-air broadcasting.Broadcasters seem resigned “to using Washington to ensure their success on the coattails of satellite and cable,” he said. He chastised the gathered broadcasters, telling them that the CEA has aggressively promoted over-the-air broadcasting, while broadcasters have made minimal effort to do so.
  • Focus on HDTV surround sound.Sound makes a difference, he said. “Surround sound is part of the HDTV experience. Use it!” he added.
  • Rush to local digital radio – HD radio.
  • Recognize the alternative media competitors.“No one medium or transmission system has a monopoly,” he said. "Beyond cable and satellite, new entrants such as broadband over the Internet, wireless distribution and even broadband over power lines “will be fighting to get in to American homes."
  • Protect consumer home recording rights.
  • Fight for the First Amendment.“I do not see broadcasters standing up to oppose new steep fines for indecency,” he said. “I do not see them united requesting a clear definition of indecency, as it gets murkier and murkier.” Waiting to challenge new laws in court is risky. According to Shapiro, “litigation takes time, and in the meantime broadcasters’ creativity will be chilled and consumers will migrate to pay services.”

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