NAB's CEO Slams Genachowski's FCC Tenure
NAB President Gordon Smith today blasted former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski for his single-minded obsession with fostering wireless broadband and called on current FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler "to put as much effort into ensuring our world leadership in broadcast as he does in broadband."
In a speech prepared for delivery at a Media Institute luncheon in Washington, Smith urged Wheeler to "meaningfully and efficiently review" the broadcast ownership limits so station can compete better, to allow "flexibility" in broadcast networks and to preserve broadcasters' retransmission consent rights.
"Tipping the [retrans] scale in favor of pay-TV providers that seek government intervention to increase their own profits only hurts our local communities," he said.
Smith rebuked the "myopic" Genachowski FCC for doing whatever it could for wireless broadband, while ignoring broadcasting, despite all the public good that it does.
Last March after he announced his intention to leave the agency, Genachowski, Smith said, released a list of his accomplishments.
"It catalogued approximately 50 items, including proceedings undertaken and industry investments. What I found most notable about the list was that there was not a single accomplishment outside of the broadband realm. Not one. And there was no mention of the ways in which the commission helped support the U.S. broadcast industry in its mission of serving every local community."
In August 2009, Smith said, the FCC launched an inquiry that "sought to identify appropriate and concrete steps the commission can take to support and encourage further innovation and investment in broadband, and to understand better the factors that encourage innovation and investment in wireless."
"Wouldn't it make sense for the commission to have a parallel examination 'to identify appropriate and concrete steps the FCC can take to support and encourage further innovation and investment in broadcasting, and better understand the factors that encourage such investment' "?
Smith did not directly address the FCC's incentive auction plan to reallocate 120 MHz of spectrum from TV to wireless broadband by buying back spectrum from broadcasting and selling it to wireless cables.
However, he challenged critics of broadcasting who believe that broadband is the "highest and best use" of spectrum.
"Let me freely admit that if highest and best use is determined only by the calculation of dollars and cents, or by how many gadgets and gizmos quickly mount up on the ash-heap of our landfills, broadcasters will lose out in that calculation every time," Smith said.
"But, if 'highest and best use' includes, not only the advantages of our one-to-many architecture, but also the durable public values it serves — reliability, decency standards, children's programming, news, weather, sports, localism and lifesaving information during times of crisis — broadcasters win every time."
FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who filled in as chairwoman between Genachowski's departure and Wheeler's arrival earlier this month, has the right idea, Smith said.
She proposed loosening restrictions on foreign ownership of broadcast stations. It was an "important moment," Smith said. "Perhaps the commission was taking its responsibility seriously to drive innovation and investment in the U.S. broadcast industry, just as it does with the broadband industry."