WASHINGTON— Just what part of free, live and local don’t you like, the chief broadcast lobbyist asked industry critics today during a House hearing.
National Association of Broadcasters President and CEO Gordon Smith testified this morning before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet at a hearing on the “State of Video.” He kept it short and sweet, highlighting broadcasting’s role during disasters and emergencies, the business of retransmission consent and the migration to mobile distribution:
“Stations play a vital role in informing, protecting and entertaining every local community across this great nation,” he said. “And that is never more apparent than when a disaster strikes, reminding us of broadcasters’ important role as first informers.”
“We’ve seen this time and again. In Arkansas and Mississippi, you saw the largest tornado outbreak that took hundreds of lives across the South. Whether an earthquake in Washington, D.C., a hurricane in New York or a terrorist attack in Boston, I have no doubt that each of you can retell a tragic story from your own state. But I’m also confident that each story involves a response by your local stations. These stations kept residents safe.
“And when there was no cable, no satellite, no broadband, no cell or phone service, broadcasters were there to provide a lifeline to their communities. When it was time to rebuild, local stations were there for their neighbors in need, holding fundraisers and food drives to help them get through the hardest times. So I ask you, isn’t this a public good? Isn’t this a role that should be supported? Because if broadcasters are not there to serve this role, who will?
“Even with all of the spectrum in the universe, the wireless industry’s one-to-one delivery system could never match our unique architecture and ability to broadcast to the masses.
“It’s crucial that broadcasting and broadband work hand-in-hand to offload congested wireless systems and deliver the content consumers want and the emergency information they need.
I“n this regard, it was also critical that Congress implemented the necessary safeguards in legislation granting voluntary incentive auction authority. While these auctions will present an enormous challenge to the FCC, your constituents and local broadcasters, we stand ready to roll up our sleeves and conclude this auction in a successful, timely fashion.
“Broadcasters not only inform…we entertain.
“As content producers, we create the most watched shows on TV. In fact, 96 of the top 100 shows were on broadcast television last year. This content is valuable – to the viewers, to the stations that supply it and to the companies that retransmit it.
“Broadcasters’ ability to serve our local communities, produce the best shows on television and deliver that content free to over-the-air viewers, is sustained by two revenue streams: paid advertising and fees paid to us by those who rent our signals and sell our content to paying subscribers.
“Without this economic foundation, we could not do what we do.
“This revenue enables stations to meet their primary goal: serving the public interest. And policy decisions that threaten this economic foundation could cripple an industry that provides an indispensable, even irreplaceable, lifeline service to all Americans.
“I am always surprised when some of our competitors try to describe broadcasters as “yesterday” – part of a bygone era. I have to ask these critics: What is it about free and live and local that you don’t like?
“Our communities not only like broadcasting, they depend on it. And despite a changing media landscape, broadcast television is as relevant today as ever.
“When TV stations transitioned from analog to digital transmissions in 2009, it revolutionized free, local TV, providing viewers more choices than ever before. Most stations offer extra channels, called multicast channels, that deliver diverse and hyperlocal content. It’s coverage of local sports and community events, your weather and traffic matched to your zip code and programs reflecting vast languages and cultures, amplifying the voices of women and minorities in our communities.
“Broadcasters continue to innovate and deliver the content viewers want, when and where they want it.
“Including interactive TV customized to your needs that we’re sending to tablets, cars and smartphones. The future of TV is mobile and on-the-go and more vibrant than ever. In the past month alone, we’ve seen new services rolling out for viewers. Networks are investing in, and launching, mobile services to provide viewers with live, local and national TV on all their devices and even on demand. We also saw just last month at the NAB Show ultra-high definition broadcasting, which is literally 3D TV without glasses; the picture is astonishing.
“Consumers have limitless options for content and countless ways to access programming, and yet they continue to turn to broadcasting more than any other medium.
“That is the enduring value we provide.
“I would ask that as you consider public policy that impacts the future of this great industry, remember the unique and critical services local stations deliver, and consider the consequences of decisions that could impact broadcasters’ ability to serve our communities, and your constituents.”