NAB: HD Is Driver, Retrans Is Beneficiary


NAB executive vice president and general counsel Jane Mago Wednesday sought Wednesday to clarify broadcasters' discussions with the FCC's broadband team headed by advisor Blair Levin.

Levin said in a letter to Mago that he had come out of an Oct. 30 meeting with broadcasters with the impression they were saying they needed all their spectrum so they would have leverage in retransmission consent negotiations now yielding "significant payments from multichannel video providers, leverage that they would not have if that spectrum were reduced. Levin is mulling ways to reclaim spectrum from broadcasters for wireless use.

Mago confirmed that the conversation was indeed about retaining spectrum, and the value that acrued to broadcasters--and consumers--by doing so. But she said preserving HD for consumers was the key, and retrans leverage the beneficiary of that rather than the motive force.

Mago said, by way of clarification, that the point they were making was that to deliver the highest quality HD, particulary for live sports, they would need "all the spectrum available for such a broadcast," pointing out that viewers have come to expect no less and that HD was "a large part of what the DTV transition was all about."

Broadcasters benefit too, she suggested, because cable operators regognize the value of those signals and are willing to pay for them.

She said that broadcasters' point was that over-the-HD was serving the twin goals of keeping "multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) subscriber costs in check" by providing an alternative, free source, and providing a revenue source for broadcasters because "MVPDs also recognize the importance of HD such that it has recently become an important element in retransmission consent negotiations."