Outgoing FCC Chairman urges broadcasters to work with wireless operators

Broadcasters should not fear the wireless industry, but instead should work with it to expand their own businesses in a time of extraordinary change, outgoing FCC chairman Julius Genachowski told an NAB Show audience this week.

Genachowski, noting the upcoming spectrum auctions for broadcast spectrum, said that TV broadcasters should be working with the wireless broadband industry to find new ways to distribute their television content.

“Mobile is an exciting new platform for exactly what broadcasters do, which is produce great national and local content,” Genachowski said. “If you look back, cable was initially resisted by broadcasters. But ultimately it’s been a boon for the broadcast industry. And given the new economic models, the same thing could happen to mobile.”

Many TV broadcasters are concerned that the FCC’s repacking of broadcast spectrum will result in diminished coverage for their own signals. Genachowski told them the commission intends to follow the statute passed by Congress and will minimize any disruption to the broadcasters who choose not to sell their spectrum.

“The incentive auctions have often been depicted as a zero sum game between the mobile industry and broadcasters,” he said. “And I don't see it that way.”

Genachowski, who is attending his last NAB as FCC chairman, avoided any definitive comment about a pending NAB request that the commission put the repacking plan after the auction up for another round of public comment. In fact, on the NAB’s request that the commission slow down the race to an auction, he said the FCC needs to get the auction completed as soon as possible.

Genachowski is leaving the FCC (by June) at a time of great distrust among broadcasters and of genuine change in the television industry. As television shifts from broadcast and cable toward the Internet, companies like Aereo were looming with threats to the broadcaster’s revenue streams.

Genachowski avoided comment on Aereo or the legal controversies associated with it, but said that competition from other platforms is good for consumers. And it's good for the television industry.

He emphasized again that the wireless industry could help broadcasters better compete in this new world where television viewing is expanding in directions beyond the living room television set.