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Survey Says: Broadcasters Power Trillion Bucks-Plus in GDP

NAB has armed itself with more statistical firepower as it argues for the value of broadcast spectrum in a broadband-centric world.

According to an analysis from Woods & Poole Economics and BIA/Kelsey, $1.17 trillion, or about 7%, of annual U.S. Gross Domestic Product "originates" in the local TV and radio industries. The analysis also found that over 2.5 million jobs were attributable to the industry.

"As this study indicates, local broadcasting is a remarkable engine for commerce and economic growth, creating high-paying jobs and helping business drive sales through advertising of goods and services," said NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith in announcing the study, which NAB commissioned. "Decision-makers now debating spectrum policies need to be cognizant of the millions of people and thousands of businesses reliant on the unparalleled impact of local TV and radio for economic survival."

The analysis found that the industry directly employs over 300,000 people accounting for $49.32 billion in GDP. TV accounted for over 180,00 of those jobs and over $30 billion in GDP.

To get to that $1.17 trillion figure, the study factored in consumption of goods and services by those 300,000-plus employees to add another $135 billion in GDP and supporting another 833,000 jobs. Then, it added in the impact of TV advertising to stimulate economic activity, and put that figure at $986 billion and another 1.35 million jobs.

The study did not include noncommercial stations or network operations -- except for owned-station operations.

Broadcasters need all the ammunition they can get as they fact a push by the FCC and wireless communications companies for broadcast spectrum.

Sensing that the study was more than an academic exercise, the Wireless Communications Association International, whose board reps include AT&T, Sprint and Clearwire, was quick to respond.

"NAB's attempt to link spectrum policy to the economic impact of broadcasting is an exercise in irrelevance," WCAI President Fred Campbell in a statement. "With incentive auction legislation, broadcasters would still have must carry rights and the spectrum they need to offer free, over-the-air services with no adverse effect on their economic impact. But without spectrum auction legislation, mobile service providers will not have the spectrum they need to offer mobile consumers the services they demand."

Broadcasters have said they do not oppose incentive auction legislation so long as they get some assurances that the broadcasters who remain in the business will have a robust, interference-free path to competing in the digital future with services including multicasting and mobile DTV.