CTIA Diminishes Broadcast Diversity. Really?

Sometimes statements get made inside the Beltway that are so shockingly arrogant that one has to step back and ask: Really?

That moment came after yesterday’s NAB news conference to highlight the launch of The Future of TV Coalition — a coalition formed to promote the use of digital television spectrum to help spur program diversity on free, over-the-air television. The event featured former United Nations Ambassador and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, who has co-founded with Martin Luther King III, a majority-owned African-American broadcast network – targeting African-American viewers – called Bounce TV.

Bounce — which is now available to half of all America and 65 percent of African-American homes — will be launching on Channel 9 in Washington, D.C. by Jan. 1. It is just one example of the creative ways that broadcasters are using digital TV spectrum to serve diverse audiences. Also at the news conference was Carmen DiRienzo of Vme Media, a network devoted to serving Hispanic TV viewers with quality programming on public TV, and representatives of companies that are using DTV-2 “multicast” channels to deliver multi-cultural and multi-lingual programming to the melting pot of viewers that are today’s America.

The members of the coalition, who reach African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American, senior, rural, young and new Americans, believe that it’s critical that they reach their audiences using authentic voices from the communities they represent. And digital broadcasting is the vehicle to do just that.

For example, many of the multicasting channels in the top 25 U.S. markets are foreign language. In Los Angeles, there are 48 DTV2 channels, and 18 are foreign language offerings, broadcasting in Spanish, Chinese, Armenian, Korean, and Vietnamese. In Washington, D.C., foreign-language and ethnic channels include broadcasts in Russian, French, Japanese, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese.

But apparently CTIA – The Wireless Association has a problem with that.

After the NAB news conference, CTIA released a statement that reads: “When you have to form a coalition to talk about your future, perhaps it suggests you don’t have one.”

Ponder that for a moment.

The successful DTV transition paved the way for a new generation of broadcasters to innovate and serve a new, diverse generation of viewers. And participants in yesterday’s NAB event clearly demonstrated that the future of TV is one where young Americans have the opportunity to have a seat at the table. This is an America where traditionally underserved communities have opportunity to invest, innovate, and expand their voices and reach within their own communities. These networks and programs will reach a new pool of viewers, advertisers, investors – and ultimately will create more economic opportunity and jobs across the U.S.

It’s regrettable that CTIA – on the heels of the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial – would presume to diminish the importance of start-up networks designed to serve previously underserved audiences.

NAB sees Bounce as the embodiment of the bright future of television, and we will continue to support the creation and growth of broadcast businesses that serve minority viewers.