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CEA Says: Americans Support Spectrum Reclamation

On the eve of a House Communications Subcommittee hearing on spectrum issues, the Consumer Electronics Association has released a CEA-commissioned Zogby poll that found that given an either-or choice, 60% of Americans surveyed would rather give up "more local, over-the-air broadcast TV choices" than "better and faster wireless Internet."

That is according to a copy of the survey, conducted among 2,138 people April 5-7. The survey did select for Internet users, however, since it was an online poll. But the survey also found that even when broadcasters were characterized as "underutilizing" their spectrum in the question--a point they do not concede--fewer than half the respondents said the spectrum should be auctioned off rather than kept in broadcaster hands, though most of the others either said neither of they didn't know.

CEA has been pushing to get broadcasters off their spectrum to it can be re-used for mobile wireless, calling TV stations squatters trying to bully Congress into preserving their "underutilized" service.

While CEA in its release said that "this perceived lack of value in such underutilized spectrum may explain why 65 percent of Americans surveyed support auctioning these airwaves, while only 13 percent support allowing broadcasters keep the spectrum for over-the-air broadcast programming," that was not exactly the case. In a footnote, the survey pointed out that 65% figure was of those who had provided an answer--almost a third said they were not sure.

Asked which statement they would most support, a) "We should allow broadcasters to keep underutilized spectrum so they can develop more over-the-air programming for local and network TV," or "We should auction off underutilized spectrum to provide for more and faster wireless broadband services, which would raise a projected $33 billion that could be used to reduce the federal deficit," less than half agreed with the second statement (45.6%), though only 9.4% agree with the first. "Neither" was the answer of 15.2%m, while 29.8% said they were not sure.

Respondents said that they got most of their breaking news from the Internet (37.7%) or cable TV news sites (29.8%), while only 9.8% said they got it from local TV. It was the same for follow-up stories, with the Internet leading at 54%, followed by cable TV (30.2%), with local TV a distant third at 5.5%.

The National Association of Broadcasters was quick to point to other, very different findings.

"We're not surprised that CEA continues its misinformation campaign with more bogus studies and polling," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. "CEA apparently is not aware that the number of broadcast TV viewers is growing, not shrinking, as evidenced by the surge in pay TV cord-cutters. Moreover, every survey but for those funded by CEA finds that most Americans continue to rely on broadcasting as their primary source for news. We look forward to an honest debate with policymakers on the value of broadcasting, with an emphasis on the reliability of a TV station signal that can never be replicated by cell phone carriers."