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NAB CEO Gordon Smith Warns of Potential 'Harm' and 'Problem' With Spectrum Auction

The exec urged the FCC to close "trust gap" and to create a national broadcast plan during his annual address at the National Association of Broadcasters Show.

Gordon Smith
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Gordon Smith

LAS VEGAS — Warning that broadcasters could “end up worse off or harmed” by the 2015 spectrum auctions, National Association of Broadcasters president and CEO Gordon Smith urged the FCC to close the “trust gap” with broadcasters and to create a national broadcast plan on Monday during his keynote at the NAB Show.

“While we understand the goal of freeing up spectrum and believe in smart spectrum policy, an equal aim should be to ensure that broadcasters and their viewers are not harmed in the process,” he said. “But at the moment, it is, at best, an open question whether the FCC has balanced those aims.”

He related that the FCC recently “ruled against sharing arrangements between two stations in the same market, deeming them in violation of ownership rules — many years after blessing them in the public interest.” He added that it is meanwhile proposing channel sharing in order to reclaim spectrum.

“In light of the FCC’s recent action, it’s not surprising that broadcasters are finding it hard to trust that the FCC will follow through on its commitments during the incentive auction,” he said. “How can we trust that the carpet won’t be pulled from underneath us again? The truth is, we don’t know. And that’s a problem for the incentive auction.”

Smith asserted that the FCC should work with broadcasters to “close this trust gap.”

He also addressed retransmission consent, saying “we must ensure the continuation of the current free market retransmission consent process. The government should continue to encourage fair and market-based negotiations.”

To address these and other issues, Smith urged the creation of a national broadcast plan. “The government invested many millions of dollars and a year of the FCC’s time and effort to produce a National Broadband Plan … All the while, the FCC has continued to regulate broadcasters as if the world is stuck in the 1970s.”

“Why is there no focus to foster innovation and investment in broadcasting to ensure our business continues to be a world leader alongside our broadband industries?” he asked. “A national broadcast plan would take a holistic view of our industry — something we have sought for years. Rather than addressing one small piece of radio and television ownership rules, why not conduct a meaningful and thorough review of all of these decades-old regulations?”

He asserted that this inquiry is “critical” where video is concerned. “If consumers want access to large, live events, broadcasting must be part of the solution.”

Email: Carolyn.Giardina@THR.com
Twitter: @CGinLA