Guest Blogger: NAB Spectrum Expert Rick Kaplan, Executive Vice President of Strategic Planning
At last week’s Senate Commerce Committee hearing on “Crafting a Successful Incentive Auction,” the executive director of the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition (EOBC) sounded the alarm that the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) upcoming incentive auction was on the path to complete failure. The reason? The FCC is allegedly not moving fast enough to inform broadcasters exactly how much money the agency plans on shelling out for their spectrum licenses and that the agency may be considering reverse auction rules that approximate the actual value of spectrum licenses. He concluded that anything that gets in the way of paying broadcasters handsomely for their spectrum licenses is going to lead to auction catastrophe.
Let me ease your minds: There is no cause for alarm. The sky is not falling. Broadcasters are patient, digesting what emerges from the FCC and recognize that this is a long, complex process.
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), along with the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS), represents the true interests of all broadcasters. Our aim is to serve America’s local broadcasters and to expand their opportunities in the 21st century, whatever they might be. We have members who will continue broadcasting for decades to come and others that may look to the incentive auction as an opportunity to exit the business after a long history of serving their communities.
The EOBC, while apparently made up of companies that hold licenses in the broadcast band (its membership list is a closely guarded secret), does not represent broadcasters. In many respects, this group seems to stand in stark contrast to what is in the best interests of broadcasters and broadcasting. Its mission is singular: to capitalize on regulatory arbitrage. Its aim is to make sure that its members are paid as much money as possible and paid as quickly as possible for their spectrum licenses.
While there is nothing wrong with having one’s own interests at heart, we must take the comments of this coalition in that context. This context explains why, as opposed to NAB, APTS, as well as the representatives of wireless companies and associations, cable companies and associations and public interest groups, the EOBC is not concerned with the resulting 600 MHz band plan, how international coordination impacts the future of television, interoperability, co-channel interference, or any other issue beyond how much they get paid and how quickly. The day their checks are cashed, their engagement in this auction ends; the EOBC has no interest in the subsequent repacking or consumer welfare.
The FCC staff is working hard to solve dozens of challenges in this extremely complicated auction. The agency is not close – nor should it be at this point – to determining starting prices in markets or even to confirming which markets are eligible for auction. These are very difficult questions among many others that need to be sorted out over time.
If done right, the FCC will make it as easy as possible for willing broadcasters to participate in the auction. In practice, this means ensuring that broadcasters understand the rules of the road and that their participation does not require an army of economists or mathematicians. There should be low barriers to entry. The process will take time, and in all likelihood will require the cooperation of those such as NAB and APTS, that truly represent broadcasters. These broadcast advocates want to weigh the potential benefits of participation, not just quick-hit investors looking to turn a quick profit because of the government’s unique offer to buy back licenses.
NAB has been engaged with the FCC to ensure the auction’s success and viewer protection from start to finish. Success for us includes, but goes far beyond, those looking to profit on their licenses. So, when Congress, the FCC and the public ask where broadcasters stand, and how can we ensure success for the auction – both for participants and non-participants – they should look to NAB and APTS. These associations represent America’s television broadcasters – not just companies that happen to hold licenses – and are focused on both the short- and long-term success of the industry.
The Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Tom Wheeler, published a blog post last week announcing changes to the FCC’s planned timeline for broadcast spectrum incentive auctions. Originally planned for the beginning of 2014, the auctions are now targeted for mid-2015. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) appreciates this more realistic schedule, which gives the FCC more time to ensure that viewers aren’t needlessly harmed by hasty changes to our communications infrastructure.
In his testimony during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on spectrum this week, the National Association of Broadcasters’ spectrum expert Rick Kaplan, noted that an “unduly rushed” process could threaten the success of the auction.
Kaplan raised several essential components in crafting a successful auction. Among them, he urged the FCC to “make all reasonable efforts to preserve non-auction participants’ coverage areas and populations served.” Post-auction, television stations that choose to remain on the air will go through a process called “repacking,” in which stations may have to move channels to create large blocks of spectrum. TV viewers should not lose access to channels that remain on the air as a result of a poorly managed repacking process. Kaplan added that a successful auction includes developing a good long-term plan that ensures rural and minority viewers do not lose free TV service.
Avoiding harm to viewers is a top priority for broadcasters and the millions of viewers who rely on broadcast television. Broadcast stations provide America’s favorite sports and entertainment programming – including more than 90 of the 100 highest-rated television shows – but that’s just the beginning. Stations have an unparalleled commitment to serving in communities across the country, providing life-saving emergency information, local news and meaningful public service.
Broadcasters have maintained from the beginning of the broadcast spectrum incentive auction process that the most important goal is getting the auction done right, not merely as quickly as possible. This new, more realistic timeline is a victory for viewers across the country.
November 21 is World Television Day! The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed this day of recognition in 1996 to promote “the increasing impact television has on decision-making by alerting world attention to conflicts and threats to peace and security and its potential role in sharpening the focus on other major issues, including economic and social issues.”
Numerous organizations around the globe come together on World Television Day to highlight TV’s crucial contribution to the global economy, politics, education and entertainment. Television is a medium that improves the world, triggers imagination, raises curiosity, encourages education and unites millions around common interests.
In the United States, local broadcast television stations provide viewers with urgent emergency information, important local and national news and the highest-rated sports and entertainment content, all for free over the air. Broadcasters’ public service supports communities across the country. And with mobile innovations, free TV is more accessible than ever before. At home and around the world, the TV you love educates and empowers viewers and their communities. This commitment is at the core of the future of TV.
Learn more about the event and TV’s role around the world at WorldTelevisionDay.com.
This week, the National Association of Broadcasters partnered with the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to host a seminar on recent developments in mobile TV.
Industry leaders discussed how viewers are using mobile TV in different markets and looked at the newest mobile TV device, developed by Dyle TV and Audiovox, available to consumers this holiday season.
Mobile TV is unique among mobile video offerings because it delivers signals to devices over the air, without onerous data streaming costs. Panelists emphasized its enormous potential benefit to the cost-conscious viewers who are adopting mobile TV as service expands across the country.
Click here to watch the archive of the event.
Polling places across the country are open today for state and local elections, and local television stations have kept the voters headed to the polls informed about the issues impacting their communities. These local stations, many of which sponsored or hosted debates on these important local issues leading up to Election Day, will go wall-to-wall tonight with coverage of the results as they come in.
From debates and campaign news leading up to Election Day, to tonight’s election returns coverage, television viewers can be more informed about those representing their interests in state and local government thanks to free, local broadcasters.
A recent study by Pew Research demonstrated that local TV news remains the dominant way Americans get news at home. Even with numerous choices in the digital age, more Americans trust their local TV stations to bring them the information they need, when and where they want it. That’s the future of TV.
More Americans are checking out mobile TV, the service provided by stations that offers viewers the opportunity to watch broadcast TV – local news, weather, sports and favorite broadcast shows – while on the go and with no data streaming charges.
This week, Dyle TV released a new mobile TV product. This new receiver allows for the delivery of Dyle signals to smartphones and tablets without a converter. Previously, viewers had to purchase a dongle to plug into their smartphone or tablet to watch broadcast TV on-the-go.
This new product is a handheld-sized box with an antennae, which picks up the mobile broadcast signal and wirelessly delivers the signal to a device via Dyle’s app. The app is available for free from the iTunes App store.
This is great news for viewers as this new feature will be released during broadcast TV’s popular fall season. Have you tried mobile TV yet? If not, what are you waiting for?
One of the primary benefits of local TV stations is that they keep you informed and in touch with your community. Whether covering the high school football game or hosting a local health fair, broadcasters are the best at serving their communities. New research suggests local stations are also the best at spurring water cooler conversations.
A recent survey found that local TV news is a top conversation starter, beating cable channels, as well as social media. Weather, tends to dominate the conversation, with 82 percent of survey respondents saying they discuss the weather every day.
A few key takeaways from the survey:
- Local TV news is three times more likely to start a conversation than digital media;
- About 25 percent of conversations on news topics were sparked by local newscasts (versus 17 percent started by broadcast network news and 11 percent by cable); and
- Local news spurred more conversation than any other programming – including network primetime.
You may not realize that even if you’re watching a national cable channel cover important breaking news, they are actually using a local broadcast station’s signal for on-the-ground footage.
Broadcasters pride themselves on being a trusted source of local news. They are also delivering their highly-valued local content to different platforms through mobile television, such as smartphones and laptops, giving viewers more opportunities to watch their local news on the go.
What do you count on your local TV stations for?