Waldman, Steven, “Local TV Stations Rally to Oppose Media Transparency,” Columbia Journalism Review, January 26, 2012

Article

Waldman, Steven, Local TV Stations Rally to Oppose Media Transparency, Columbia Journalism Review, January 26, 2012

 Comment

It has often been observed that those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. For more than forty years the public interest community has been trying to get the broadcast industry to have greater transparency regarding its media archives. For some of the early history, see my May 2000 article published in the Harvard International Journal of Press-Politics: “Local TV News Archives as a Public Good.” Unfortunately, it is simply not in the self-interest of broadcasters to face this type of accountability. And given that the public interest community is politically weak, politically naive, generally blissfully ignorant of history, and often more interested in do-good headlines than actual results, the broadcasters win time and again regardless of how poor are their public policy excuses. It’s a sad story. Hopefully, it won’t be repeated yet again. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

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Juliana Greenwald, “Walden Bullish on Spectrum Legislation’s Prospects,” National Journal, January 25, 2012

Article

Juliana Greenwald, Walden Bullish on Spectrum Legislation’s Prospects, National Journal, January 25, 2012

Quote

“Walden said the language included in his bill would ensure the FCC can’t pick winners and losers.”

 Comment

This is an absurd statement, given that Walden wants to rig the auction process, including FCC incentives, so that the public transfers tens of billions of dollars to one of the most politically powerful lobbies–the local TV broadcasters–without public compensation. If that’s not picking winners (well-connected industry interests) and losers (the public), I don’t know what is.

Gautham Nagesh, “Group backs calls for unlicensed spectrum,” The Hill, January 10, 2012.

Article

Gautham Nagesh, Group backs calls for unlicensed spectrum, The Hill, January 10, 2012.

Quote

“House Republicans argue the government should not pay for airwaves just to give them away again for free..”

 Comment

This is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. When did the broadcasters pay the government for their spectrum? The Republicans (and Democrats) are proposing to give the broadcasters tens of billions of dollars worth of spectrum rights plus revenue for spectrum that is owned by the public and that broadcasters never paid a nickel to the public for, except for what turned out to be bogus “public interest obligations.” It is unfortunate that the politics of the Wireless Innovation Alliance prevent it from addressing this issue because it would actually strengthen its case.

Brendan Sasso, “Senators blast House spectrum bill,” The Hill, January 9, 2012

Article

Brendan Sasso, Senators blast House spectrum bill, The Hill, January 9, 2012

Quote

“House Republicans argue the government should not pay to reclaim airwaves that it will then give away for free.”

 Comment

This is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. When did the broadcasters pay the government for their spectrum? The Republicans (and Democrats) are proposing to give the broadcasters tens of billions of dollars worth of spectrum rights plus revenue for spectrum that is owned by the public and that broadcasters never paid a nickle to the public for, except for what turned out to be bogus “public interest obligations.”

Tony Wolverton, “Wolverton: House bill wrong way to divvy up airwaves, San Jose Mercury News Backers of the bill say they are just trying to ensure that the government gets as much money as possible for these prized airwaves,” Mercury News, December 19, 2011.

Article

Tony Wolverton, Wolverton: House bill wrong way to divvy up airwaves, San Jose Mercury News Backers of the bill say they are just trying to ensure that the government gets as much money as possible for these prized airwaves, Mercury News, December 19, 2011.

Comment

Only someone unfamiliar with Congressional spectrum politics could accept such a statement at face value.  A close student of the spectrum provisions and the politics surrounding them would discover that the auction receipts to the Federal treasury, specifically those concerning the broadcast band, are largely a smoke and mirrors game designed to fool the American public that a huge corporate giveaway is actually its opposite.  The elimination of unlicensed spectrum is not in the pursuit of gaining more money for the Federal treasury but ensuring that every possible last drop of the spectrum windfall from “incentive auctions”  is given to the broadcast industry.

John Eggerton, “NAB’s Gordon Smith: We’re Fine With House Version of Spectrum Bill,” Broadcasting & Cable, December 15, 2011

Article

John Eggerton, NAB’s Gordon Smith: We’re Fine With House Version of Spectrum Bill, Broadcasting & Cable, December 15, 2011

Comment

Trade publications like B&C are mouthpieces for their industries, so it’s appropriate for them to print articles that are little more than press releases for their lead trade association.  However, printing gross distortions of fact, such as Smith’s claim that “the cost to broadcasters of the 2009 digital switch, which also included repacking channels, was $15 billion” should be a line inappropriate for even trade publications to cross.

Kerry, John, “Sen. John Kerry: Your Airwaves, Your Voice,” Huffington Post, December 13, 2011

Article

Kerry, John, Sen. John Kerry: Your Airwaves, Your Voice, Huffington Post, December 13, 2011

Comment

The spectrum crunch is real, but that is no excuse to give tens of billions of dollars worth of public airwaves to the TV broadcasters,  The authors describe this giveaway as freeing up spectrum “in a way that is fair to broadcasters.”   But it certainly isn’t fair to those who own that spectrum: us.  Both political parties support this giveaway, so  this isn’t a partisan issue.

The issue that is partisan has to do with the support of unlicensed use of this spectrum.  I believe this is a very worthy goal.  But both parties have eviscerated the original plans to allow unlicensed use of the white spaces in this band of spectrum.  So the debate is far more about window dressing than both the champions and opponents of unlicensed use have acknowledged.  However, I applaud Kerry and Eshoo, who, unlike me, don’t have to worry about committing political suicide in our world of special interest driven politics, for advocating for at least a tiny sliver of unlicensed use.