Broadcast and Wireless Industries Acting Scary

You get the feeling that if a wildfire started blazing through Central Park, some D.C. lobbyists would welcome it as an opportunity to advance their cause. Trade groups for both the broadcast and wireless industries have engaged in some disturbing behavior this week, giving the impression they feel natural disasters might just help them more win the feds over than a loaded PAC.

About two hours after the earthquake rocked the East Coast, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) put out a release trying to strengthen its side in the Great Spectrum Battle. After buttresses were damaged at the National Cathedral, the NAB tried to buttress its position by citing a warning from D.C. emergency management officials about possible aftershocks, which came with the suggestion to "stay tuned to radio and TV news updates."

Now, a hurricane has rumbled over the Bahamas and is heading towards North Carolina, where people are boarding up and evacuating. The storm might even do some damage there and head back to sea and up the coastline.

The NAB figures the storm can give it some wind at its back and Thursday sent an email citing comments by FEMA head Craig Fugate made on CNN it feels help its cause. According to the NAB, Fugate said that during the earthquake people were "so enamored with their smart phones and stuff" that they may have forgotten that can shut down systems, so instead go with "your local radio and TV stations."

"Those local broadcasters are going to be giving you the best information, real time, from those local officials out of those press conferences," Fugate said. "So make sure you got your radio and television ... and again cell phones get congested ..."

The NAB and wireless industry association, the CTIA, are trying to tip the scales in their favor as the FCC and Congress mull the prospect of asking stations to voluntarily give up broadcast spectrum, which would then be used to improve wireless broadband networks. Stations would benefit from a sale process that could benefit a Verizon or Sprint.

Broadcasters are apoplectic -- they appear to feel voluntary will lead to mandatory -- while wireless companies seemingly envision being able to offer faster services and charging customers a lot more.

But forget profits. Both trade groups would say we're looking out for the public. When tornadoes are whizzing through, TV stations need the spectrum to quickly reach a mass audience with news goes the NAB. We need the spectrum, so we can ensure you can call your parents to tell them all is OK goes the wireless companies. So, not to be outdone by the NAB and let the quake go to waste, the CTIA also tried to capitalize. Its head Steve Largent wrote on a blog that wireless networks actually worked very well in the aftermath, though he acknowledged some issues.

With that cleared up, he wanted to convey how misguided the NAB is: "While television and radio played a role in helping to disseminate information to consumers, most Americans used their mobile devices to find out if their family and friends were safe. Yesterday's earthquake underscored the vital need for our industry to get more spectrum."

At least, the CTIA waited 24 hours post-quake to get out its message. And, so far Largent hasn't tried to leverage the hurricane yet. Is that coming Friday?

1 comment about "Broadcast and Wireless Industries Acting Scary".
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  1. T Y from Freelance Producer / DP, August 26, 2011 at 1:10 p.m.

    All the companies want that public spectrum. Are they willing to have the government dictate that they MUST broadcast emergency information as directed? I'm guessing not so much. The only "public service" that broadcasters do is what is expedient for them. "Public service" by broadcasters is a total joke now.

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