News Column

Gordon Smith Speech at ATSC Broadcast TV Conference

May 8, 2014



WASHINGTON, May 8 -- The National Association of Broadcasters issued the following news release:

NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith delivered a speech today at the 2014 ATSC Broadcast Television Conference, which brings together industry stakeholders to develop voluntary standards for digital television.

Below is a transcript of his speech as prepared for delivery.

Thank you for that kind introduction. I appreciate this opportunity to speak to you today about how NAB is working to secure a vibrant future for broadcast television.

Thomas Edison once said, "I start where the last man left off."

I think this quote speaks to the collaboration that innovators realize is necessary in order to continue the evolution of technology that improves lives.

Indeed, this collaborative spirit was clearly evident among the pioneers of broadcast television.

In developing this new technology, broadcasting pioneers envisioned a mass medium that could educate, entertain and inspire audiences...all at once.

Pioneers like Philo Farnsworth, who made contributions that were important to the early development of all-electronic television and conducted experiments at my alma mater, also realized the power of broadcasting early on, recognizing how the medium could be used to both entertain and share information with the whole nation.

In a biography of Farnsworth, "The Last Lone Inventor," Evan Schwartz wrote: "The immediacy of television was the key. As news happened viewers would watch it unfold live; no longer would we have to rely on people interpreting and distorting the news for us."

Today, consumers expect to receive their information directly and immediately. And taking up "where the last man left off," broadcasters are innovating to deliver television signals to viewers wherever they are.

As we seek ways to adapt to consumers' changing needs and discuss ways to remain relevant in the future, it is important that we also remember broadcasting's highest purposes.

Serving our local communities, delivering lifesaving information when disaster strikes, providing entertaining and educational content, and protecting the foundation of our Democratic ideals - the freedom of expression...the right to free speech and of the press...all of these things are at the heart of what broadcasters do.

These values that fueled the collaborative spirit of broadcasting's pioneers continue to drive all of us in this room today. We continue to evolve to deliver the services that strengthen our mission as broadcasters.

And we are pleased to work collaboratively with ATSC, which has an integral role in ensuring a thriving future for television.

I commend ATSC's efforts to bring together different industries that have a stake in the successful evolution of television broadcasting. Through ATSC, entities such as consumer electronics and broadcast equipment manufacturers, software developers, satellite and cable TV providers, as well as broadcasters, are working together to develop the best roadmap for propelling broadcast television into the future.

Recently, we learned of the passing of Bernard Lechner, a tremendous leader and innovator in broadcast television. Bernie was a friend to many in the industry. He made many significant contributions to ATSC, and during his 30-year career at RCA Laboratories, established himself as one of the world's leading experts on television and electronic displays. When we watch our digital and HD TVs, we have Bernie to thank for his work on developing the standards that helped make the technologies possible. And now, as members of ATSC, your challenge is to carry on Bernie's great work...to start again where he left off.

This event provides a valuable forum for us to hold substantive discussions on improving the delivery of broadcast content to viewers.

As consumers try out other new telecommunications technologies, broadcasting continues to thrive and prove time and again its dependability when all else fails.

Broadcasting is a highly efficient medium when it comes to spectrum usage - its one-to-many network architecture transmitting one signal to many receivers, its service area spanning hundreds of square miles.

Because of the strength of the broadcast infrastructure and the power of the airwaves, local stations are often the only available communications medium during disaster situations, when wireless networks can be unreliable.

Just last week, we witnessed this when violent storms struck the Midwest and South, resulting in the tragic loss of many lives. Broadcasters stayed on the air around the clock to communicate critical information to the public and were credited with saving lives.

Because of the lifeline broadcasting provides, it's important that it continues to evolve as a universal and ubiquitous service.

As a mass medium, broadcast television depends on mass market deployment. When consumers buy a TV at a retail store, they should be able to get all of the broadcast channels...and they should be able to receive broadcast service anywhere they are in the country.

This is crucial to broadcasting's mission of delivering its highly-valued services to local communities.

In order for TV to succeed, we must continue to move quickly to increase the number of distribution channels and platforms for our valuable local content, and we must respond to the needs of an ever-more mobile audience.

As broadcasters, it is our job to make sure our signals are available on every device and everywhere - smartphones, laptops, tablets - and of course, multiple channels of digital TV.

We support the ATSC's efforts to develop technical standards that are accepted by all the different stakeholders, which will support the expansion of broadcast technologies.

There is a nexus as to what NAB is doing on broadcasters' behalf in our nation's capital and what ATSC is doing to support the evolution of television broadcasting to meet consumer's changing needs.

NAB is constantly advocating broadcasters' interests before Congress, the FCC and the courts to ensure that their ability to innovate and serve their local communities is not threatened.

As the FCC remains myopically focused on broadband and delivering our spectrum to wireless companies, we must remind policymakers that in times of crisis, those wireless companies cannot match the reliability of broadcasting to deliver critical information to the masses.

I think the irony here is that the wireless industry covets our spectrum so that they can deliver video as efficiently as broadcasting's one-to-many architecture, but their networks can never truly achieve this, no matter how much spectrum they obtain. And even worse, they want to charge viewers for this service that we provide for free.

There's no question that our spectrum is highly desired by others, which means we are also under greater scrutiny.

The focus of the FCC shouldn't be how can spectrum be taken away from broadcasters in order to bolster the wireless industry's goal of developing an architecture with the reach and reliability of ours, but rather, how can we continue to expand broadcasting's robust and efficient architecture to other platforms, allowing us to continue innovating and delivering the content and services viewers depend on every day.

Fortunately, there is immense opportunity for us to deliver our valuable content to a multitude of platforms in the years ahead.

At the NAB Show last month, we explored many exciting innovations in television broadcasting. We saw the promise of 4K Ultra HDTV, which adds more resolution and contrast to broadcast video for sharper and brighter pictures that provide spectacular images on super-sized screens. NHK showed even higher resolution 8K content, and demonstrated its over-the-air transmission. We heard proposals for advanced television sound, which add amazing realism and power to the viewing experience. And we marveled at multi-screen services like ATSC 2.0, which demonstrated how today's broadcast TV can be enhanced with synchronized content delivered via the Internet.

With these new ways for consumers to enjoy broadcast TV comes the task of broadcasters and other stakeholders in the television ecosystem to keep up with these innovations - and you are rising to the challenge here with the ATSC 3.0 initiative.

Broadcasters' future lies in innovating and spurring technology that will deliver our highly-valued content to any platform for generations to come. Emerging technology presents a great opportunity for broadcasters to provide viewers with their favorite content anywhere, on any device, anytime they want it - and with high reliability.

So, as efforts are underway to develop ATSC 3.0, we encourage the adoption of standards that would benefit all television broadcasters, supporting and strengthening their ability to provide the services that viewers rely on each day; to innovate to better serve their communities; and to compete in a mobile world.

As the ATSC addresses the challenges and opportunities of next-generation technologies, this is a crucial time for stakeholders to work together to ensure that broadcast TV's one-to-may architecture successfully extends to emerging platforms.

Moving forward together, we can bolster the reliability of broadcast service, enabling broadcasters to increase its accessibility to everyone...even those with sensory impairments. We would support TV's evolution to provide even richer and more personalized content experiences. And we could provide even more effective alerting to the public in times of crisis.

We also support the movement toward worldwide harmonization of next-generation television technology. The economies of scale that are generated will benefit all stakeholders.

While we invest in new technology, we will not forget the roots of television's success - its commitment to localism and delivering high-quality and compelling content to viewers.

I want to thank you for inviting me to speak to you this morning. We thank ATSC for all its hard work to ensure the expansion and growth of broadcast TV to reach emerging platforms, to add value to broadcast services, to deliver new and exciting content, and to better serve the public interest.

Broadcasting is evolving right before our eyes - its future is bright. And working together, we are focused on building upon broadcasting's value for future generations to enjoy.

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