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  • Rick Kaplan 12:48 pm on June 20, 2019 Permalink  

    Bringing a Measure of Sanity to the FCC’s Children’s TV Rules 

    On Tuesday, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai announced that the FCC would be voting in July to approve modernized rules governing children’s programming on broadcast television. While the current rules may have once served a purpose in a marketplace led by broadcast television, they certainly no longer have a place in today’s world where kids have a seemingly unending number of video options. A look at the facts rather than the rhetoric makes plain why the FCC is finally headed in the right direction.

    In Washington, we often see issues boiled down to headlines and talking points. Undoubtedly, we’ll see some of this in the coming weeks as certain opponents suggest without support that the FCC’s proposed reforms are bad for kids.

    If we are living in the world of facts, however, there should be no argument that the FCC is correct to be addressing a long-overdue issue. Broadcasters take incredibly seriously the responsibility to serve our communities – including children – with the programming on which they rely. But the reality is that today’s kids are not turning to broadcast television for their video needs. This truth should not be a surprise given the fierce competition for kids’ and families’ attention. In addition to the myriad cable television channels that now specialize in kids programming, the internet has transformed the way young people interact with video. Kids programming is no longer about the half-hour program on Saturday morning. Now, kids can watch anytime, anywhere and on any device, and they do. The landscape has completely changed.

    Don’t take my word for it – just look at the numbers. Last year, fewer than 90 children ages 2-17 watched any given educational and informational program on the average NBC or CBS affiliate station via broadcast antenna. In the last 10 years, Saturday morning viewership of the four major English-language broadcast networks by kids ages 2-11 declined by a remarkable 71 percent. And out of the 4 hours and 30 minutes that kids ages 2-16 spent watching video content per day in 2017, they spent only 37 minutes of that time watching broadcast TV.

    In contrast, in 2017 kids ages 2-16 spent 2 hours and 3 minutes watching internet-based content and 1 hour and 49 minutes watching pay-TV. This makes sense given that 98 percent of homes with children have mobile devices, such as tablets or smartphones, and as of 2017, 75 percent of kids ages eight and younger lived in a home with an internet-connected TV. Ninety-five percent of teens ages 13-17 also own a smart phone or have access to one, and 93 percent of teens ages 13-15 use social platforms to access video, including 82 percent through YouTube, 72 percent through Netflix and 64 percent through cable or satellite TV.

    Even if a barrage of data makes your eyes glaze over, just look around at your sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters or friends. What do they watch? How long do they watch? On what devices do they watch? Is it primarily over-the-air?

    I’m confident the answers to these questions link the data to what you know to be true in your daily life. Kids have tons of options that have completely transformed their viewing habits.

    What hasn’t changed, however, are the rules that treat the world as if we are still living in the 1980s or 90s. Indeed, you may be wondering why it’s necessary (or even permissible) for the government to impose content regulations on broadcast television in the first place. Perhaps that’s a conversation for another day. Regardless, we are well past time to adopt common sense reform of rules that were promulgated well before cable television and the internet began to dominate children’s attention.

    Fortunately, in a process led by FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, the FCC took on this important project. The FCC recognized the need for reform, not merely to reduce burdens to broadcast television stations, but to benefit kids and the community as a whole. Broadcasters cannot own an unlimited number of channels; they have limited airtime to deliver the programming their communities demand. That is why the FCC is proposing to modify its current requirement that broadcasters air three hours of children’s television programming each week to give broadcasters more options on how to best serve kids and the general public.

    For example, per the draft Order released by the Commission yesterday, rather than requiring that all programs be 30 minutes or more in length, the FCC plans to allow broadcasters to experiment with different models to reach kids. Anyone who is around young people knows that kids watch videos in short bursts and are far less likely to sit for a 30-minute program. The FCC also acknowledges what we all know about how kids watch programs. Outside of live sports, appointment viewing is no longer the norm. By allowing broadcasters to air some programs that are not regularly and weekly scheduled, it gives them the opportunity to get creative in how to best serve kids. Rather than mandating a three-hour block of programming each week, this proposal would unshackle broadcasters and allow them to air more programming at times when kids are more likely to watch, such as over winter, spring or summer breaks.

    The changes outlined by the FCC also acknowledge that broadcasters serve a larger audience as well. Stations across the country are expanding their weekend news, public interest programming and live sports that their communities crave. Given that we’ve just passed the 10-year anniversary of the digital television transition, it is also past time that broadcasters are allowed to air some of their children’s mandated television programs on their multicast streams. This adjustment will help broadcasters avoid the unfortunate choice between adding a newscast and meeting their children’s television obligations, and it will cut down on schedule changes to children’s programming that some parties expressed concern about throughout this proceeding. Importantly, multicast streams are available to any family accessing their broadcast programming through a free over-the-air signal.

    NAB believes the Commission could have made even greater strides in its effort to modernize the children’s television rules. Many of the obligations that will remain are still hard to justify given the overwhelming facts in the record. In fact, these rules are a cautionary tale for any industry facing regulation; once rules are in place, no matter what the world looks like decades later, it is very difficult to update them in any meaningful way.

    In lieu of greater reform, however, the FCC did its best to achieve a balance in which all stakeholders should find comfort. Broadcasters will still air a great deal of children’s programming, and homes that don’t have access to the internet will still have access to quality free over-the-air programming. Under these revised rules, however, broadcasters will have the ability to experiment with improving this content in light of today’s video marketplace. If nothing else, the FCC is taking an important and measured step towards a more rational and effective kid vid regime.

    Given the inevitable rhetoric, NAB understands that these common-sense reforms did not come easily. Commissioner O’Rielly, Chairman Pai and the FCC staff developing these new rules should be commended for taking seriously the data in the record and working for lasting reform. In the end, they have produced a proposal that will benefit kids and the public at large.

  • Ann Marie Cumming 4:21 pm on February 27, 2019 Permalink  

    First Informers: Hurricanes Florence and Michael 

    NAB and the Broadcast Education Association are pleased to present the sixth installment in a powerful video series demonstrating the indispensable role that local radio and television broadcasters serve as “first informers” during times of emergency.

    This film focuses on broadcasters’ heroic response to Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael, which devasted the Carolinas, Florida Panhandle and other parts of the southeastern United States in September and October 2018. The storms caused massive evacuations, billions of dollars in property damage and sustained hardship for residents of those areas.

    Florence brought catastrophic flooding to the Carolinas in late September, setting records for rainfall and flooding in both states. One month later, Hurricane Michael struck with winds up to 155 mph, making it the strongest storm to ever hit the Florida Panhandle.

    Presented for the first time yesterday in Washington, D.C. at NAB’s State Leadership Conference, this mini-documentary features dramatic footage of the devastation and examples of broadcasters’ valiant efforts to provide life-saving emergency information and community assistance.

    Interviews with dozens of broadcasters demonstrate their dedication to journalism and commitment to serving communities, particularly in times of emergency:

    “We went from 30 minutes to being on air for 24 hours. Not for one day, not just for two, but for a whole week.” – Sandy Marin, Multimedia Journalist/Anchor, WUVC Univision 40 – Raleigh, NC

    “It was one of those moments where you really dig down deep and realize this job is much bigger than me. I am here as a vessel, so to speak, to get this information out and…help people stay alive…” – Valentina Wilson, Anchor, Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s WCTI ABC 12 – New Burn, NC

    “When a disaster hits, you view your audience like your family. These are the people that you’ve met [and] it’s your job to [deliver] the information to them that they need.” – Crystal Legends, Operations Manager, Dick Broadcasting’s WRNS 95.1 — New Bern, NC

    “No doubt in my mind, we literally saved hundreds of thousands of lives. But also, we had to stay behind and broadcast. As broadcasters, someone had to be behind the microphone, giving that life-saving, vital information.” – Dr. Shane Collins, Show Host, iHeart Media’s 92.5 WPAP – Panama City, FL

    “I told the community, ‘wherever you are, we are just going to stay with you, we are going to stay calm with you, we’re going to talk you through this, as it’s happening, to the best of our abilities.’” – Donna Bell, News Director, Gray Television’s WJHG NBC 7 – Panama City, FL

    Many thanks once again to Media Arts Professor Scott Hodgson from the University of Oklahoma and Chandra Clark, professor of Journalism and Creative Media at the University of Alabama. Scott and Chandra, along with their students, compiled extensive footage and conducted dozens of interviews for a video account of broadcasters’ heroic efforts in covering Hurricanes Florence and Michael.

    Previously released videos in the series include a feature on broadcasters’ response to tornadoes that struck Joplin, MO and Tuscaloosa, AL; the second film documented broadcast coverage of Superstorm Sandy; and the third video examined broadcasters’ lifeline role as deadly tornadoes ripped through Moore, OK. The most recent videos focused on broadcasters’ coverage of Hurricane Harvey (Texas) and Hurricane Irma (Florida).

  • Rick Kaplan 1:04 pm on July 12, 2018 Permalink

    Common-Sense Reforms for Children’s TV 

    More than 20 years ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) created rules that require over-the-air TV broadcasters – and only over-the-air TV broadcasters – to air a specific amount of children’s educational programming, at specific times, in specific formats and in specific ways. The FCC’s rules implemented the Children’s Television Act of 1990, which was passed into law before the advent of the internet as well as the hundreds of cable and satellite channels that exist today. But while the world around the FCC’s highly prescriptive rules has dramatically changed, the agency didn’t seem to notice.

    Thankfully, this FCC – following the lead of Commissioner Mike O’Rielly – decided it was finally time for the agency to open its eyes and take a peek.

    The result is that the Commission is bearing witness to what everyone else plainly already sees. More to the point, what every kid sees. Namely, that children today have infinitely more options to engage with interactive video content, on myriad platforms and at times of their choosing. Children don’t have to make an “appointment” for their favorite programs; they are available around the clock. Kids can also turn to a variety of sources. Indeed, with the explosion of cable and satellite programming, we’ve seen the development of entire channels dedicated to content for kids. And now with the internet, kids have access to all kinds of new programming – including from over-the-air broadcasters – in ways no one even imagined in 1990.

    Given the unassailable fact that the children’s TV world has changed, the FCC has an obligation to examine its rules in light of those changes. The need for a closer look is especially ripe, because the government’s rules single out over-the-air broadcasters; they act as if broadcast TV is the only way kids are exposed to age-appropriate programming. The FCC’s rules don’t apply to cable programming. They don’t apply to satellite programming. And they don’t apply to the internet (surprise, surprise).

    None of this is to suggest that the FCC should jettison its responsibilities under the Children’s Television Act. It’s merely time – past time, actually – for the Commission to recognize that the world around those rules is very different than the one when they were written in the 1990s. Given the explosion of kids’ content in the marketplace, it is also unnecessary and unduly burdensome (and likely unconstitutional) for the federal government to require that broadcasters air children’s programming on each digital program stream. In addition, the FCC could incentivize better children’s programming were it to count short-form or special block programming towards monthly, quarterly or annual targets.

    Some groups have asserted that the Commission does not have enough data to propose new, more flexible rules. These claims are misguided. The FCC has a wealth of data on the state of the video marketplace. Beyond that, one can simply hit the power switch on his or her TV, computer, tablet or smartphone. The evidence is all on the screen. Today’s kids – from any background – have access to an unprecedented level of educational and informational programming.

    Rather than turning a blind eye to all of the incredible innovations in children’s programming, we should all get down to the business of figuring out what rules still make sense in light of the dramatic changes in the relevant marketplace over the past two decades. It’s a process the agency should take seriously. Leaving rules in place that govern a bygone age is evidence of a government that is abdicating – not pursuing – the responsibilities to which the American public has entrusted it. We are pleased the FCC has taken an important step in the right direction.

  • alisonneplokh 2:04 pm on April 25, 2018 Permalink
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    Shake It Off, Taylor Swift’s Spectrum Advice 

    Our Love Story begins in 2009. As part of the National Broadband Plan, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had a bold idea to fix what it foresaw as a looming spectrum crunch for wireless broadband service. The FCC would broker an auction/exchange between television broadcasters and wireless carriers, and shuffle channels around as necessary. In other words, the wireless industry saw broadcast spectrum and said, “You Belong With Me.

    But how much spectrum should be moved from television to mobile broadband? Nobody knew. Wildly optimistic predictions about the demand for mobile spectrum fueled visions of reallocating as much as 144 MHz of spectrum away from television broadcasters. Others, however, wondered if the auction would succeed at all. When it came time for the FCC to change the frequency allocations, there was only one conclusion: put everything on the table. So, in 2015, when the FCC adopted rules for the incentive auction, it put a Blank Space where the number of MHz to be allocated for wireless broadband would go. And, just in case its Wildest Dreams came true, the Wheeler FCC also made a dual allocation (for both TV and wireless broadband) across the entire UHF TV band domestically, and also lobbied for changes to the international table of frequency allocations at the 2015 World Radio Conference.

    In 2017, the incentive auction closed, with 84 MHz being reallocated from television stations to wireless carriers. While the auction was a success, the anemic bidding in late rounds, lower than expected prices per MHz-pop, and unsold spectrum blocks in large markets like Los Angeles and San Diego suggests a complete lack of lingering demand. So, with all of the questions now answered, the FCC said, “Look What You Made Me Do” to the industries and removed the wireless allocation from spectrum at 512-608 MHz, as well as the broadcast allocation from 614 MHz and above.

    Now, in 2018, it is time to go back to the International Telecommunications Union and update the international spectrum tables once again. The market has spoken. Everything has Changed. There is no reason to keep a wireless allocation below 608 MHz. For the wireless companies to keep a claim to something they have no intention to use is pure greed. That spectrum is for broadcasting Forever and Always. This is our End Game.

  • alisonneplokh 9:32 am on March 13, 2018 Permalink  

    The Negative Sum Game 

    Microsoft would have you believe their proposal to require broadcasters to hold open at least one additional channel in the broadcast band for unlicensed use is not a zero-sum game. They are right, but not in the way they want you to believe.

    TV white spaces held a lot of promise over a decade ago. Perhaps it still does today – by letting unlicensed devices use channels TV stations aren’t using, there is the possibility to make more efficient use of spectrum and provide new services, potentially including additional options for rural broadband access. Broadcasters don’t have any problem with letting Microsoft use truly vacant channels, provided that broadcasters don’t permanently cede their rights to build on those channels in the process. NAB has and will continue to work with Microsoft and other TV white spaces proponents to make reasonable rule changes that improve the ability of unlicensed devices to make use of vacant TV channels.

    But that’s not at all what Microsoft’s “vacant channel” ask is about. Microsoft’s ask is not about using vacant channels, it’s about creating vacant channels. Microsoft is asking the Federal Communications Commission to require that, before broadcasters can make any changes to their existing licenses, they first ask whether there would still be at least one channel available for unlicensed use throughout their entire service area. This creates several costs to broadcasters and their viewers:

    1. No matter what Microsoft says, this is not a win-win proposal. The only way this creates extra space for unlicensed use is by denying a broadcaster a channel. Whether this broadcaster is a major network affiliate delivering high-demand programming and top-notch local and national news, a public broadcaster delivering high-quality educational programming, or an independent broadcaster delivering in-language programming to minority communities, this policy means one less voice in the media market. Microsoft maintains this would be a very rare scenario. But that evades the point that this policy is either irrelevant (because there are plenty of empty channels) or is harmful because it deprives viewers of service.
    2. Broadcasters would have to hold open a channel, even if nobody has any interest in using it. Whether it’s that the particular market in question has no demand for white spaces or that the whole white spaces idea is never successful, broadcasters can’t retain or expand broadcast service, because it would violate Microsoft’s proposed rule. White spaces is supposed to be about letting people camp on empty lots, not forcing broadcasters to leave their lots empty just in case someone wants to come along and pitch a tent, even if nobody ever does. Effectively, Microsoft gets squatters’ rights without even having to go through the trouble of squatting.
    3. Even if there is plenty of space available, broadcasters have to spend money to prove that. A few thousand dollars to conduct a study might sound like a small issue when you envision a large broadcast group, but this also applies to rural low-power television stations and TV translators that operate on a shoestring budget and are often community funded. And, multiply that “small number” by thousands of broadcast stations across the country, and you get to a really big problem.

    Calling this a zero-sum game is actually optimistic. At best, this proposal creates winners – the massive Microsoft Corporation – and losers – local broadcasters and their viewers. But most likely, everyone loses.

  • Ann Marie Cumming 3:07 pm on March 6, 2018 Permalink  

    Local Broadcasters: A Lifeline in Florida 

    Day in and day out across America local broadcasters are a trusted source of critical news and information.  Never is that role more important than in times of emergency and severe weather when broadcasters become a lifeline to communities in need.

    Less than a week after Hurricane Harvey struck the east coast of Texas, Hurricane Irma barreled down on the Caribbean Islands before hitting Florida’s west coast, prompting massive evacuations and leaving more than 6 million people without power.  Florida broadcasters were steadfast in their mission to keep viewers and listeners safe.  News crews hunkered down – battling the elements, tracking the storm, galvanizing communities and providing lifesaving information.

    NAB and the Broadcast Education Association storm chasers set out once again to document the indispensable role that local radio and television stations serve as “first informers” during times of emergency.  We are pleased to present the fifth installment in this powerful video series.


    Interviews with dozens of Florida broadcasters reveal their dedication to journalism and commitment to serving communities:

    “In a crisis, it’s time to communicate to your community because you might be the only thing they have.” Jeff Zito, Program Director/Host, Beasley Media Group’s WRXK “96 K-Rock” – Ft. Myers

    “As reporters, we were standing at the phonelines, and we were telling people, ‘this is available if you need help and you don’t know what to do.’” Jess Doudrick, Multimedia Journalist, Raycom Media’s WWSB ABC 7 – Sarasota

     “Our program director, Nio Fernandez, stepped up tremendously to help the Hispanic audience (providing in-language programing).” Tee Gentry, Operations Manager, Beasley Media Group – Tampa

    “We had more than 20 of our reporters and meteorologists, even sports people, out in the field to give people an idea of where this storm was, how it was going to affect their lives, and when it would arrive.” Steve Jerve, Chief Meteorologist, Nexstar Media Group’s WFLA NBC News 8 – Tampa

    “If I can show myself out there (in the storm), there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than covering a hurricane to let our viewers know what’s happening.” Michael Paluska, Reporter, Scripps’ WFTS ABC Action News – Tampa

    “In the Keys, radio was king. It was everything.” Julie Guy, Show Host, Entercom’s “Lite FM 101.5” WLYF – Miami

    “I think that this storm was proof, to a lot of people in our community that we’re here for them and that we’re trying to give them an accurate portrayal of what is going on.” Whitney Burbank, Reporter, Hearst’s WPBF ABC 25 – West Palm Beach

    Many thanks once again to Media Arts Professor Scott Hodgson from the University of Oklahoma and Chandra Clark, professor of Journalism and Creative Media at the University of Alabama. Scott and Chandra, along with their students, compiled extensive footage and conducted dozens of interviews for a video account of broadcasters’ heroic efforts in covering Hurricane Irma.

    The 2017 hurricane season caused major devastation in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean Islands, while wildfires and mudslides decimated parts of California. Through it all, broadcasters have been on the front lines. As cell phone service went down and cable was rendered obsolete, broadcasters remained on the air, going above and beyond to keep viewers and listeners safe and informed.

  • Ann Marie Cumming 12:16 pm on February 21, 2018 Permalink  

    Local Broadcasters: Hurricane Harvey Heroes 

    NAB and the Broadcast Education Association are pleased to present the fourth installment in a powerful video series demonstrating the indispensable role that local radio and television broadcasters serve as “first informers” during times of emergency.

    This film focuses on broadcasters’ heroic response to Hurricane Harvey, which in late August 2017 dumped more than 40 inches of rain in four days, causing historic flooding in east Texas and leaving tens of thousands of residents homeless.

    The 5-minute mini-documentary features dramatic footage of the devastation and examples of broadcasters’ Herculean efforts to provide life-saving emergency information and community assistance.

    Stations devoted enormous resources as staff risked their own safety to provide essential coverage, coped with flooded stations, and overcame technical difficulties to stay on air – all while many station staff members experienced their own property damage and were displaced from family members.

    Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who visited Houston shortly after the hurricane, shared with the documentary team his appreciation for broadcasters.  “People really want information when there’s something that’s threatening them and their families, and broadcasters step into the breach and provide that information,” said Pai.

    Interviews with more than 45 broadcasters reveal their dedication to journalism and commitment to serving communities, particularly in times of need.

    “(Covering the storm) was our most difficult hour and our finest hour.” Len Cannon, Anchor, KHOU 11, Houston, TX

    “The role of local media in a disaster like this is to really be a lifeline for our viewers.” Sally MacDonald, Anchor, KRIV Fox 26, Houston, TX

    “It’s almost an instinct.  You go out, and you do it, and you cover it because this is something that affects not only you personally or your family, but also millions of people.” Lester Gretsch, Sports Anchor, KXLN Univision 45, Houston, TX

    “(Broadcasters) are their eyes and ears… If they had power, they were tuned in.” James Ware, Reporter, KFDM CBS 6, Beaumont, TX

    “(Supporting the recovery efforts) is really when it means something special and when it’s expected of broadcasters.” Scott Sparks, Air Personality and Music Director, KHPT 106.9 “The Eagle,” Houston, TX

    Many thanks once again to Media Arts Professor Scott Hodgson from the University of Oklahoma and Chandra Clark, professor of Journalism and Creative Media at the University of Alabama. Scott and Chandra, along with their students, compiled extensive footage and conducted more than 45 interviews for a video account of broadcasters’ heroic efforts in covering this devastating storm.

    Previously released videos in the series include a feature on broadcasters’ response to tornadoes that struck Joplin, MO and Tuscaloosa, AL; the second film documented broadcast coverage of Superstorm Sandy; and the third video examined broadcasters’ lifeline role as deadly tornadoes ripped through Moore, OK.

  • Patrick McFadden 9:11 am on November 9, 2017 Permalink  

    New American Hustle: Cable Opposes a Free, Innovative Service for Viewers 

    In one week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote to approve the voluntary use of a new broadcast television transmission standard, Next Generation TV. This standard has the potential to revolutionize the viewing experience, offering consumers a better product and enhancing competition in the delivery of video programming. This is an exciting moment for the broadcast industry, television viewers and fans of innovation and competition in the video programming marketplace.

    You might think it would be hard to line up against innovation and a superior free service. Unfortunately, when anything benefiting consumers involves free, over-the-air TV, some special interest groups are ready to put on a show to demonstrate their opposition.

    Later today, the New America Foundation will be hosting a panel discussion on the upcoming FCC vote to authorize Next Gen TV. New America assembled a panel of five guests representing the American Cable Association, the American Television Alliance, NTCA – the Rural Broadband Association, Consumers Union and the Alliance for Taxpayer Protection. If you’re scoring at home, that’s three cable panelists, two “public interest” groups and a #techinterestgroup host. (Actually, one of the cable panelists is the outside counsel for another, so maybe it’s just two and a half cable panelists? Or is it one and two halves? I digress.)

    Every one of these groups has expressed concerns about Next Gen TV before the FCC. They have all largely focused on the cable talking point that broadcasters will somehow use retransmission consent negotiations to compel carriage of Next Gen signals at pay-TV consumers’ expense. In fact, two of the panelists and the moderator himself got together for a press call on October 26 to bash the Next Gen TV proposal on just those grounds. This panel is not a discussion, in other words, it’s a stage play in service of the pay-TV industry. Perhaps New America is looking for a new funder beyond Google?

    Now, again, three (kind of three?) of these folks are cable representatives. You can understand their self-interest in stymying competition so they can continue their uninterrupted and ongoing quest to bilk their customers with fees and extraneous charges as long as possible.

    But for the consumer groups, this is puzzling. First, just as a matter of optics, it takes serious chutzpah to call yourself a consumer advocate and show up as the chorus line for cable companies. After all, these are some of the most hated companies in America precisely because they are so effective at demonstrating their ongoing commitment to not caring at all about their customers. Second, as a substantive matter, wringing your hands over technological innovation in support of a free competitive option – the only free option – in the video market is…well, let’s charitably describe it as counterintuitive.

    New America’s staging of this cable opera is particularly galling. New America has devoted substantial time and energy to flogging its clients’ patrons’ donors’ pet projects around getting spectrum for free at the direct expense of existing broadcast services viewers rely on. Broadcasters also have substantial and unparalleled public interest obligations attached to their spectrum; obligations that New America has fervently attempted to help half-trillion dollar companies avoid while they pursue access to free spectrum.

    Here’s the bottom line. Broadcasters are seeking permission to invest their own capital to offer a better service to viewers without government mandates or subsidies while maintaining their current obligations. It’s obvious why this might concern pay-TV competitors. But if “consumer advocates” can’t see the public benefit in next week’s FCC decision, it might be time to audition for a different role.

    In the meantime, I hope rehearsals for today’s show are going well. I expect they are; after all, everyone has the same lines.

  • alisonneplokh 10:00 am on November 7, 2017 Permalink  

    Next Gen TV: Something to be Thankful For 

    With Thanksgiving coming up, I’m practicing my Olympic-caliber skills at dodging awkward conversations about politics, religion or when I’m going to have children. And that means having an answer to the question “what are you working on?” that does not immediately cause eyes to glaze over.

    Spectrum policy is really interesting to me, but I have to accept the fact that not everyone shares my passion for more efficient modulation or how in the world 984 television stations are going to change channels in a mere 39 months (now closer to 32). So, this year, I hope to hold people’s attention a little longer celebrating the FCC’s success in setting the stage for the future of television by approving Next Generation TV.

    But “what,” they ask, “is Next Gen TV?” It’s better pictures, better sound, enhanced emergency alerting with the ability to wake up TVs when there is major trouble headed your way, more interactivity, personalized programming and more. That should keep us busy for a while.

    But here’s my silver bullet for when the conversation starts to turn back toward when I’m having children. Next Gen can also offer a whole new way of bringing educational programming to children. As the Association for Public Television Stations pointed out last year [1], Next Gen TV brings with it the possibility of distance learning on a customized local level. Children could get lessons and materials customized to their curriculum at home without needing a broadband connection. Educational videos could be downloaded to Next Gen TVs in non-real time to be viewed on the student’s schedule, and applications could be delivered to practice these new skills.

    PBS Kids programming has proven to be very effective in improving kids’ academic scores [2]. Not to mention, its content is the most-watched educational programming out there. Low-income families in particular stand to benefit from the interactive educational features of Next Gen TV becoming available over the next several years.

    And, of course, I can remind everyone that those football games are going to look even better in 4K. I’m already looking forward to dessert.

    [1] APTS Ex Parte

    [2] Public Television comments, page 5

  • Suzie Raven 9:44 am on October 30, 2017 Permalink  

    Delivering Radios to Hurricane-Ravished Puerto Rico: A First-Person Account 

    Author’s Note: To view photos of my trip to Puerto Rico, click here.

    I recently had the opportunity of a lifetime. I was asked by my employer – the National Association of Broadcasters – to travel to Puerto Rico to help distribute 10,000 battery-operated radios to people in hurricane-ravaged island and the Virgin Islands.

    The idea for the radio hand-out stemmed from a meeting where President and CEO Gordon Smith asked: “What can NAB and our industry do to help?” NAB swung into action, purchasing, shipping and delivering the radios in just 18 days.

    radio1I had seen pictures of the devastation in Puerto Rico, but nothing compares to seeing it in person. Most of Puerto Rico remained without power and drinkable water during our visit. Even in the Capitol of San Juan, power came almost exclusively from generators that had to be refilled with fuel or diesel daily by hand, sometimes every four hours. Police directed traffic at intersections.

    People wait from six to 14 hours over three days to get tarps to cover the roofs of their houses. It’s common for people to wait in line for three hours to enter grocery stores, where bottled water is sold in rationed quantities. We saw 100-year-old trees uprooted, bringing concrete sidewalks with them and toppling power lines. We saw people living in cars or in tents on the beach. Recovery in areas away from the coast, where mountains and rain forests dominate the landscape, is occurring at a snail’s pace.

    radio5Seeing the devastation drove home the need for reliable communication. Cellphone connections and Internet service are non-existent in many parts of Puerto Rico. Broadcast radio continues to connect people to critical information, five weeks after Maria made landfall. Residents in remote mountain areas and along the edge of the rain forest have limited information on accessing resources. My colleague, Louis Abanez, and I, visited several remote locations to distribute radios.

    People in 25 Puerto Rican municipalities, plus the U.S. Virgin Islands, received radios from our shipment of 10,000 devices. Donations from NAB, the National Alliance of State Broadcasters Associations (NASBA) and multiple U.S. radio companies covered the cost of this project.

    We received enormous logistical support from Pat Roberts, head of the Florida Association of Broadcasters, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Local Puerto Rican authorities ensured that the radios were distributed to those most in need. We also received Congressional support from Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, Congressman Darren Soto and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

    radui3Crowds gathered for two events that Mayor Lornna Soto arranged in Canóvanas on October 18.  It was touching to see the faces of Puerto Rican children light up when we handed them a new radio. People literally danced in the streets with their new radios.

    Rio Grande Mayor Gonzalez drove with us down narrow, winding, mountainous roads on the edge of El Yunque National Forest, where we delivered radios from the back of his pick-up truck. Residents flocked to us, particularly after dark when our vehicles provided the only lights for miles. We also walked to houses set back on dirt roads.   Two hundred families personally received radios that day, with Mayor Gonzalez planning to distribute another 200.

    On October 19, we delivered radios to Mayor Anibal Melendez in Fajardo, where challenges remain in reaching residents in the mountains. We also had a memorable experience in Loiza, a municipality with a median household income under $10,000.  With cell phone ownership rare in Loiza, we knew that our radios were making a positive impact.

    radio2Several mayors convened at a hotel near the San Juan Convention Center October 19 – 20 for meetings and to pick up supplies, including food, water, baby formula, diapers, and AM/FM radios. Word-of-mouth was key in making the mayors’ offices aware of our initiative. Some mayors only became aware of our radio distribution upon arriving in San Juan. Without cell service, they could not receive messages about our efforts.

    Other municipalities that received radios included Aguas Buenas, Barceloneta, Camuy, Carolina, Cataño, Cayey, Cidra, Coamo, Guayanilla, Guayama, Gurabo Juana Díaz, Naranjito, Manati, Morovis, Ponce, San German, Toa Baja, Villalba, Vega Alta, and Yauco.

    The Puerto Rico Association of Broadcasters is distributing 500 radios to residents. Executive Director José Ribas Dominicci and President Raul Santiago Santos continue to work tirelessly to ensure that stations have the resources they need to continue broadcasting.

    This was an incredible trip and an honor to represent NAB.

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