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NAB: Spectrum Crisis "Manufactured"

National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith tells the Deficit Reduction Committee in a letter that spectrum crisis claims "manufactured" by the wireless and electronics industries and advanced by the FCC in its National Broadband Plan don't hold up. The wireless lobby countered that NAB is getting "desperate."

According to a copy of the letter, Smith suggests to the legislators, including Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chair of the Energy & Commerce Committee that oversees communications issues and the FCC, that a Citigroup study released two weeks ago provides fresh and compelling evidence.

Citigroup had said that too much spectrum was in the hands of companies not planning to roll out service or with business or financial challenges. "We do not believe the U.S. faces a spectrum shortage," Citigroup said.

Smith says that in light of that, the legislators currently looking for ways to cut the deficit, need to ask some tough questions before considering the incentive auctions that, while raising some revenue for the treasury, would call for local TV stations to give up as much as 40% of their remaining spectrum -- they already gave up 25% in the switch to digital in 2009.

Those questions are:

1. Is there a spectrum crisis?
2. Why has the FCC not conducted a complete spectrum inventory?
3. What is the value of free TV to society?
4. Where can the millions of people who rely on free TV for niche foreign language and religious programming turn?
5. What would shuttering of TV stations do to the state of journalism?

And Smith provided one answer to a question that he suggested didn't even need asking: "[D]uring times of crisis, broadcast television saves lives."

Smith said that in areas of limited wireless capacity, broadcasters can be part of the solution and that NAB does not oppose the "concept" of voluntary spectrum auctions so long as they are held harmless.

CTIA-The Wireless Association countered that broadcasters were getting desperate.

"If this is how the NAB is showing their support for voluntary incentive auctions, then I would be fascinated to see how they'd respond if they opposed the idea," said CTIA Vice President Jot Carpenter. "Frankly, I would imagine their messaging would look and sound like yesterday's letter. To be clear, all the proposals on incentive auctions are voluntary.

"Throughout this process, NAB has consistently misrepresented the facts, with their efforts becoming more desperate as time goes on. The looming spectrum crisis is a fact that has been acknowledged by the president, members of Congress and the FCC Chairman and his colleagues. It has been acknowledged by foreign governments. The only people on the planet who consistently fail to acknowledge its existence work at the NAB.

"For the good of our members, American consumers and the American economy, Congress must act this year to make additional spectrum available for wireless broadband services."

House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said this week that his personal goal was to have a spectrum auctions bill done by the end of the year.