Your TV Or Your Smartphone?
By Bruce A Johnson | March 24, 2010
It isn't much of a secret that I work in broadcast television. I think I'm unique among the writers at PVC in that. So I pay a lot of attention to the Federal Communications Commission and whatever they are up to at any particular time.You have probably heard a bit about the FCC's new idea to expand broadband Internet access across the US - to make it happen, it wants to Kill Off Broadcast Television!Ooops, forgive me - I was reading from the playbook of the National Association of Broadcasters. Yeah, the same folks that have sat on enormous swaths of bandwidth since the dawn of the Radio Age and never paid a cent for the privilege to the owners - you and I, the American Public. The NAB sees it a little differently, of course - they will tell you endlessly about how much public service they deliver, through all that local programming they do! You know, like newscasts! And all that other...umm...wait, there isn't anything else but newscasts anymore, is there? (Newscasts that happen to be their biggest profit centers as well.) And a lot of independent (e.g., non-network affiliated, or many Fox) stations don't do news of their own at all, often buying newscasts from their in-market "competitors." Yeah, that's the intersection of journalism and capitalism at it's best, huh?Sounds like I'm mightily pissed-off at broadcasters, right? Well, hang on, because I'm just getting started. Do the Wayne's-World-finger-wipe in front of your eyes (go ahead, I'll wait...there, that'll do) and go back about four years, when the Digital TV Transition (fanfare goes here) was in full swing. Broadcasters had no better friend than the Consumer Electronics Association, who hyped the new HDTV technology like it was the Second Coming. Of course, as of last June, the DTV Transition (fanfare goes here) is over, and a fairly large number of Americans have already replaced their old TVs with HDTVs. So what does the CEA think of this?Headline from TWICE, the CEA's own news source:CEA Backs FCC Broadband PlanCEA says Time to evict TV stations from the airwaves! Gotta sell the next gimmick! (How can they split their attention between this and 3D-TV?) "Fickle" is a vast understatement for the friendship of the CEA, and if they want to sell a gadget by replacing whatever it is you do, watch your back - AND your wallet.And the FCC isn't blameless in this either. Again, less than a year after finishing the job of ripping up the foundation of television broadcasting, they announce they are going to rip it up AGAIN? These guys have the attention span of a gnat. The lawyer/consultants for my station sent out a synopsis of how the FCC Broadband Plan might affect TV stations. Here are a few excerpts:"...The FCC may seek early on to "repack" TV station allocations to free up Channels 46 - 51 for wireless broadband services. Stations on those channels would either go off the air or move down the band...The effect on all stations would likely be increased interference and smaller service areas.""Ultimately, the FCC wants 120 MHz (or 20 channels), suggesting an eventual repack down to Channel 30 or so. That seems impossible to accomplish without significant numbers of stations simply going off the air."Well, that certainly puts a different light on the NAB's paranoia. So why does any of this matter? If this is so important to the future of the US, why didn't we do this in concert with the DTV transition? For one, ten years ago few people could actually envision what "broadband" meant. But here we are in 2010, and one in five of us has in our pocket what would literally be considered a "supercomputer" only a decade ago, and it breathes that bandwidth that the FCC wants to "repack." So, I ask you...what do you value more?Your TV or your smartphone?Sounds like a stark choice, right? Well, it is. What do YOU think?