The National Association of Broadcasters released a study Monday predicting dire consequences if the Federal Communications Commission acts on its plan to reclaim 40 percent of the broadcast spectrum. Not surprisingly, the FCC, the Consumer Electronics Association, Wireless Communications Association International and CTIA – The Wireless Association quickly issued statements declaring the NAB’s study was nothing more than “scare tactics” and should be ignored.
The NAB report said the FCC’s National Broadband Plan would force many television stations off the air permanently and decimate free television, claiming 40 percent of full-power television stations in the U.S. would have to relocate from their current channels. In the top 10 markets, 73 stations would be left without a channel, it said, with Fox affiliates and Hispanic broadcasters disproportionately affected.
“If the FCC’s National Broadband Plan to recapture 20 more TV channels is implemented, service disruption, confusion and inconvenience for local television viewers will make the 2009 DTV transition seem like child’s play,” said NAB president Gordon Smith. “NAB endorses truly voluntary spectrum auctions. Our concern is that the FCC plan will morph into involuntary, because it is impossible for the FCC to meet spectrum reclamation goals without this becoming a government mandate.”
Michael Petricone, the CEA’s senior vice president of government affairs, said these catastrophic consequences were not based on realistic projections. “The NAB study sets up and knocks down a purely fictional straw man,” he said. “The study presumes an unrealistic scenario in which every single existing TV station continues to operate over-the-air.”
CTIA government affairs executive Chris Guttman-McCabe said the study unfairly dismisses the fact that participation in the spectrum auction is voluntary. Additionally, he added, it does not factor in the provision that costs associated with changing frequencies will be reimbursed. These costs are substantial, according to the NAB, adding up to a projected $2.5 billion.
FCC spokesperson Neil Grace said the proposal will be the catalyst for innovation and investment. “It has twin benefits: it will help broadcasters interested in participating and unleash much needed spectrum — a key ingredient to meeting the demands of the mobile revolution,” he said. “Rather then engage in scare tactics, we urge NAB to work with us to achieve our shared legislative objectives to maintain a strong over-the-air broadcasting service.”