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Top TV lobbyist warns telecom industry 'wants us out of the game'

April 16, 2012 |  2:10 pm

Gordon Smith

LAS VEGAS -- National Assn. of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith warned broadcasters that the telecommunications industry "wants us out of the game."

In his opening remarks at the annual NAB convention here in Las Vegas, the broadcasting industry's top Capitol Hill lobbyist said broadcasters cannot "let down our guard" when it comes to the wireless and mobile industries.

Smith's remarks come after broadcasters scored what most consider to have been a major victory in its fight to hold on to their airwaves. While Congress cleared the way for the Federal Communications Commission to auction broadcast spectrum to wireless companies earlier this year, TV station owners are not going to be forced to sell their airwaves. Broadcasters can voluntarily sell spectrum, although few have indicated a desire to do so.

A former Republican senator from Oregon, Smith cited Silicon Valley's win over Hollywood in getting SOPA and PIPA anti-piracy legislation killed as a sign that "we should never rest on our laurels."

"The idea behind SOPA and PIPA was simple and straightforward: Don't steal our creative content," Smith said. But Silicon Valley changed the debate in Washington and won the battle. "Shockingly, 'thou shalt not steal,' became 'do not censor the Internet,' " he said.

"The Googles and the Wikis," Smith said, used their medium to "create a powerful megaphone to change forever how battles are won, or lost, inside the beltway." 

Smith also took shots at cable and satellite operators who complain about paying broadcasters so-called retransmission consent fees in return for carrying their signals.

"Of the top 100 prime-time shows, 95 of them are on broadcast TV, not cable networks," Smith said, adding that the "cable and satellite lobby's notion of market failure is simply false."

The FCC is currently reviewing retransmission consent rules and many cable operators are trying to make it more difficult for broadcasters to pull their signals from pay-TV distributors if a new deal can't be reached right away. Earlier this month, Tribune, parent of the Los Angeles Times, took its channels including KTLA-TV in Los Angeles off of satellite broadcaster DirecTV for a few days until a new pact was signed.

Smith also said broadcasters need to be more aggressive in creating mobile platforms.

"Delivering live, local and national news, sports and our great shows, to viewers on the go -- this is where our business is going," Smith predicted.


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Photo: Gordon H. Smith, President and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters. Credit: National Association of Broadcasters.