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NAB's Smith: We Want Successful Auction 'In Rearview Mirror'

At an ATSC "TV Champions" panel session in Washington last week, National Association of Broadcasters president Gordon Smith said that the elephant in the room for broadcasters was their heavy regulatory burden combined with an upcoming incentive auction where "so many things could go wrong."

He said those were unrelated to the lawsuit filed, which was targeted to the software model the FCC plans to use to calculate interference and station coverage.

In fact, Smith said NAB had tried to expedite the court case because NAB wanted a successful auction "in the rearview mirror."

The former senator pointed out that he was on the Senate Commerce Committee during the transition from analog to digital, and remembers how tough that was. He said that transition was like "kindergarten recess" compared to the complexity of the upcoming incentive auction and its potential for disruption.

On the regulatory burden portion of the element, he said that broadcasters were "kept, as no one else, small." National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Michael Powell was on the panel, and Smith offered to give cable some of that regulatory burden to shoulder. "You've been trying," Powell quipped back.

Smith put in a plug for the FCC retaining a "dedicated band" for broadcasting, pointing out that after the incentive auction, broadcasters would have given up 2/3 of their band and that there is "simply a limit" if broadcasting is to retain its important place in the media life of the nation.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.