NAB's Smith: Forced Spectrum Move Could Destroy Innovation

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National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith Tuesday continued to push for a definition of a voluntary incentive auction proposal that left broadcasters with enough spectrum to innovate, suggesting that a forced move could destroy innovation and endanger their digital future.

In an address to broadcast standards-setting body, the Advanced Television Systems Committee in Washington, Smith suggested that the option of selling spectrum should be reserved primarily for broadcasters unable to continue to operate their business. "If a station simply can't make it and volunteers to sell its spectrum, that's fine," he said. But those left behind to operate their businesses must not have their future compromised in the process, he made clear. "The problem is that what is voluntary for the former could become involuntary for the latter," he said.

He also urged the committee to help broadcasters be players in the 3D and multiplatform spaces.

While the Federal Communications Commission has said it will need the ability to relocate some broadcasters who opt not to take the buyout, Smith and the NAB have increasingly asserted that that would not be voluntary. "It concerns us that the FCC could forcibly relocate broadcasters, crowd channels closer together, reduce their coverage, destroy innovation for viewers, increase interference or otherwise degrade their signals," he said.

Smith said broadcasters weren't resistant to change; just to change that would leave them with not enough spectrum oxygen to breathe. "Change can't happen, and we can't serve our audiences, if we don't have sufficient spectrum. It's the necessary ingredient in the over-the-air part of free, over-the-air television," he said.

ATSC is working on a more efficient DTV transmission standard as well as on how broadcasters can get into the 3D business--their current standard does not easily accommodate the bandwidth-hungry technology.

Smith urged ATSC to work on perfecting a workable 3D transmission standard. "ATSC's efforts in this area are much needed to make opportunities available for broadcasters in 3D," he said. "Until those opportunities are available, stations aren't likely to seriously analyze them or enter the 3D business in a significant way."

He also pushed for a new DTV standard that would help broadcasters become a more multiplatform player. "We have been talking a lot about broadband and broadcast convergence in the current spectrum debate," he pointed out. "The features of ATSC 2.0 sound consistent with that vision of broadcast and broadband being complementary, and maybe even having synergy with each other. So I urge you to move forward rapidly with this program and ensure the receiver manufacturers are committed to making products, as well as broadcasters supplying services."

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