tv The Communicators Gordon Smith CSPAN December 25, 2017 8:00am-8:32am EST
>> we debated it. took a path on taking a position on that with all the other controversy swirling we're glad the heat was not on us. it is a difficult issue. i remember wrestling with that issue in the senate. there are credible arguments on both sides. cspan: television stations that is almost a quaint term anymore to call something a television station when local channels are online and they're just as much online as they are on tv anymore. >> they are. most of my television members, they do have internet sites and, yet no one is trying to restrict their access. and you know, in the end that is a debate that i, as i wrestled with it, it came down to whether, if there is a shortage as best managed by market forces or government regulation? that is really why unfortunately
has become a partisan issue. but i think our chairman ajit pai, has long had a principled position that he's reflected as chairman of the fcc. and yet he has taken a lot of heat for it too but we were unable to deal with it in congress to settle the issue. it does fall with the fcc i suspect it will ping-pong back and forth for the right policy until evidence is in and proven to be a problem congress can address it, come up with constitutional majorities. cspan: before we get any further into issues. bring paul kirby of telecommunications reports into this conversation. >> thank you. one position you do have a position on as a group of repacking tvizations after after the auction earlier this year.
1000 stations are repacked. fcc set a 39 month time frame. congress earmarked $1.7 billion but that is not enough money. >> yes. >> give the concerns at this point or do you hope congress comes up with the money sooner rather than later? some folks say fcc has more money now and congress should come forward with the little ways down the time frame? >> sooner than better, congress in my opinion is not able to do things not fast. this is lands in congressional office, if television stations start being pushed off the air because of something beyond their control. they don't have the money to do it or tower crews to make the repacking possible. so both the same and money allocated with as many stations, 1000 stations have to be repacked, eventually congress is going to be very mindful of this because their local news,
weather, sports and news about them won't be available if they get pushed off the air. so we're, we have friend on both sides of the aisle on this. they understand it. we hope sooner than later that they address both the time, particularly the money. whole predicate of the spectrum auction it was voluntary and those who chose not to sell out and remain in business were to be negatively impacted in terms of the dollars and their ability to serve their local communities. and so they have to get the dollars right, with the numbers known now and they have to get the time right, but this is no easy thing to rehabbing a television tower. because of weather, labor shortages and tower crews. it is very hazardous work. we hope congress will address this because it will, my experience that nothing made the phones ring more in my re essential room in the senate
than television sets not working. so we'll get their attention. we hope to it in a way that it's ahead of the problem so it's never visited on capitol hill. >> nab asked for safety valve from congress to make sure stations harmless if things happen beyond their control. fcc says we have a lot of tools at our disposal, including waivers. so a station may not have to repack by the timeline if things are out of their control. do you want something in the legislation to say, fcc, look you have to make sure stations are held harmless? >> i do trust the fcc about that. they care about the broadcasting industry. they want free and local television made available to all americans. what they don't necessarily have is all the money that will be required they have to dispurse. so i know there is a lot of people of good faith but i would say is that the broadcast,
broadcast test have no incentive to delay this we would like this in the rear view mirror just as fast as it possibly can be. so we can move on into the future. >> t-mobile is the largest wireless bidder in the auction and they have worked with some broadcasters and low power tv folk to try to help them move. t-mobile wants access to the spectrum. i want your view on it. mobile's activities so far. have are you happy the way they worked with folks and people in new york to get access to a major station? >> anything they can help is much appreciated. we can't move any faster than the dollars and the clock will permit. so any supplement that they can give to facilitate this with broadcasters, that's certainly welcome. >> there is related issue, and that is microsoft and some other companies want the fcc and some public interest groups to reserve three channels in each
market nationwide for unlicensed devices. nab is critical and other members, jeez that spectrum might be needed for low power and other stations. can you give us a sense why you've been so critical of that? >> first of all, microsoft, i love that company. we're all benefited because of their great products but i would just say they're one of the wealthiest companies in the world and they could have participated in buying spectrum for this very thing. now we all want rural broadband but i think it is getting ahead of this issue a bit, until we get the repack done, because the future has to include them and broadcasters. it is not either/or proposition. until we get all of the spectrum repacked and broadcasters moved, i think until we know the full consequences intended and unintended that their requests for free spectrum is a little bit premature, when we have such
a big public policy goal to achieve in this repack. cspan: senator smith, one of the conversations we're having in the nation today about our infrastructure. should rural broadband be included in that? >> oh, absolutely. i think it can be, when the facts are bert known, the technology is more proven up there will be room for microsoft too. we want rural broadband. in fact with the new atfc 3.0 receiver standard as this gets deployed on a voluntary basis the world of the broadcasters future is broadcasting and broadband. so we will in the future have a two-way transmission to the american viewer and so we want rural broadband as well. but we don't want that at the price of doing something too early until we get all of this other business behind us. cspan: and as we are taping this
tax reform is moving its way through congress. does it benefit the broadcasters? >> i think clearly broadcasters are benefited by something that is not in the tax bill. we worked very hard with other businesses to try to keep out of it and that is when you go and you cut a tax, our budget rules required they be paid for. advertising deductibility is always been an order aniry necessary expense deductible from your business tax and there was some movement or suggestion that that ought to be amortized and not deducted. well when your business is radio and 100% of your business revenue comes from advertising television is probably 80%, that posed a very real and present danger to the viability of the broadcast industry.
so we worked very hard and are very thankful to the leadership of the house and the senate and the white house that we were not a pay-for. so, yes, we look forward to lower rates. there are certainly other provisions in there that some of my broadcasters don't like and like kind exchanges and things like that but those are their business transactions they will have to figure out under the new tax rules but i think on balance broadcasters have a lot to be thankful for. that we weren't a pay-for and, the broadcasting remains still the very best way to move commerce through our advertising. >> you mentioned the next generation tv standard which is atsc 3.0. the fcc recently authorized the industry on voluntary basis but there is criticism of it including some consumer groups who say the problem is once it's deployed it would force consumers to get tv sets because
their tv sets now won't be able to use it and that's not good. the industry, allies says, yes, we're talking about years down the road, there are a lot of benefits from it, what would you say to the criticism? >> i just bought an iphone x. by that logic you would say i paid a tax but i don't think i paid a tax. i just saw a better phone and bought it and if in the future people see an opportunity to buy a television that has a vastly more capacity and optionalities they may well do that but it is voluntary and because of that we'll send out a signal on the 1.0 standard and the 3.0 standard. we have no incentive to do anything to make sure that as many people want to see our content can see it. so our advertisers expect that. and we want that. so we're not going to be trying to defrayed the system in any
way but simply offer a future to the american people that offers 4-k pictures, emersive sound, internet interoperability, mobility such that in the future if you a dongle and put it into the phone or ipad you can watch broadcast television for free. this offers so much to the american people i'm thankful this fcc has said on voluntary basis we can proceed. i know that samsung and lg who i have visited them in korea, they will be producing television sets that have dual receivers in there but that is down the future. most televisions last a decade. then, new technology comes up and people want to buy something new, they will have a lot more to buy in terms of what it brings into their homes in the future because of the fcc having the courage to say america led
from analog to digital. let's lead on into this worldwide standard. let's provide worldwide leadership with this new standard and so i think it's a wonderful thing they have done. >> so will there be a time where someone might be forced to get a new set or lose over the air tv? >> no. the biggest concern of course we have is the backward compatibility which is why we will have two signals. there will be some channel-sharing but we don't have the spectrum we did when we went from analog to digital we flash cut, we had extra channels we could go to. we don't have that anymore. which is why the channel sharing idea will help facilitate this but every broadcaster in the nab, we have no reason contractually with our advertisers, or our own business model requires us to give all the content we can on either a
receiver standard. >> you mentioned iphone. nab has been critical of apple. apple is one of the makers of smartphones that doesn't have activated fm chip. apple says in some of the phones the chip is there it is not activated. other phones say it is not there. other manufacturers activated it, nab is saying on terri basis as opposed to mandate these folks should do that because it is good for consumers. give us a sense do you feel at some point apple might do that? >> we hope so. apple ace tough business to get into. they are very smart people, they've their own platform, and they have very smart products. it is compliment to at&t verizon, sprint, t-mobile voluntary activated their chips in their phones. these are not apple phones.
but on android devices you can get over the air radio not going over the air data caps. when you have over the air radio you're losing a lot less battery life. there is spectrum use efficiency and i think public safety i hope apple will one day consider. must tell you the story of my friend gary shapiro runs the consumer electronics association. i guess it is the consumer technology association now. gary was never for this until he got caught in the sonoma, california, fires, he wrote a marvelous piece about his experience when they lost electricity and power, etching went down. the lightses were off, tvs were off. cell phones didn't work. they crashed and he was saying i just wish that got power can't get any signal. i wish it had an fm chip where i
can find out to go to be safe, be rescued and how to get out of here. he ended up going to his car, his car radio and turning it on to find out what was happening in this calamity that beset the california valley. so he became a convert to the value, the public safety value of a having an fm chip lit up in a cell phone. so we hope apple will one day see that as value to their customer, additive to the value of their great product. cspan: should it be a mandate? >> it is interesting, ever since the individual machine date that goes away with the tax bill on health care mandates is kind of a tough word around capitol hill and republican congress and so our friend up there have said we'll not be passing any mandates but i actually think you know, in the fullness of time we, as a country ought to do it almost every other country
does, they do mandate it. and, when the japanese tsunami, that mandate proved a great lifesaver to many people who are caught up in the nuclear challenge because they had radio on their cell phones that was a broadcast receivership, not a broadband, that requires a cell. so yeah, there is a case to be made for it but we just concluded our best case is to go to these companies and make the business case to them. include a lot of the revenue that can campus to them this way, offsets some of what they lose by having free radio on a cell phone. you can get radio on a cell phone through an app, but that is digital stream. that goes against your data caps. that eats up your battery life. broadcasting is far more efficient. cspan: senator smith, you mentioned apple, but there is also apple tv, netflix, amazon,
et cetera, et cetera. how are those new competitors fitting into the marketplace? >> obviously it is more competitive marketplace and you've just seen this sale between fox and disney for century 20 one studios and, to be in the content production business you better be big and pretty well-healed. you look at google and netflix and amazon and facebook. they're all getting into the content business and so it's going to have the impact who is producing the shows you watch and i think obviously fox has made the decision that, to have scale disney will be better scaled to be able to compete than they would have just as a stan-alone. so, there is things, are shifting in the marketplace. cspan: is it, as we referenced a little bit earlier, is it almost quaint to say it.
v channel or tv station anymore with the lines blurring? >> we're not in the "i love lucy" era anymore. anymore with the new entrants you got to have scale. chairman pai is taking up the whole issue of television ownership in various markets, even national cab issue. our association is debating that vigorously. we await their direction as to, what nab's position should be but we know that the there's lots of attention being given to how large a broadcast station should be, how many markets it can cover. how much ownership can be in one city. these are things being debated now at the fc can and we're a part of that debate. cspan: what is one of the main issues being debated at the
national association of broadcasters? >> i would certainly think the national cap of 39% is something that our members are debating vigorously right now and trying to come to a unified position. some want it left at 39%. others say 50%. some say there should be no limitation. and, but the fcc is always had as a policy to keep television ownership small and somehow that's is to serve other public policies. and yet, on the one hand they keep us small, and yet they approve at&t and directv merging. you've got all kind of huge corporate entities merging now but we're kept small. that makes it difficult for to us compete sometimes when you go and negotiate retransmission consent deals. cspan: well, should, will
sinclair tribune go through? >> we don't take a position on any one issue. all i plead is that they, they don't do this on the basis of politics but what fits within the rules, the guidelines, the statutes that the fcc and the justice department have to conclude whether or not this complies with those. if it does, they will, they will permit it. if it doesn't, they may require them to spin off a few television stations but we'll leave that decision to the business people in our industry and the fcc and the justice department. >> coming back to that there was a time some years ago it, might have been before you came to nab where nab was pushing for mandate. do you know or remember it, did you get pushback, why you said we'll go with the voluntary route. >> yeah, we got push back. >> from the hill. >> it wasn't put in a bill or
anything like that, in talking to members, we would rather you do it through the market rather than government mandate or regulation. >> okay. >> i respect that we've been secondful on the android platform, not the apple platform. >> regarding 39% cap do you think that one of the issues when the fcc adopted a notice of proposed rule making recently on that, whether the fcc had the authority to even do it. democrats voted against it. even one republican voted for notice of proposed rule making he doesn't think the fcc has the authority to do it without congress. do you think the fcc has authority to remove the cap or moderate that cap? >> the courts will have to tell us that. i was a member of the senate when the 39% cap was established. it was result of compromise and, it is a statutory thing that is appended to the quadrennial review that is also a statutory requirement which, so if you
give a strict reading to the statute they can't raise the cap as part of a quadrennial review, but they can raise it outside of quadrennial review. i don't know the answer to that. but there are two legitimate legal arguments that will be made and, but first the fcc has got to decide that. they may decide to move the cap or eliminated the cap. i don't know which, and let the court decide whether or not that was a total hamstring on their ability to deal with it, or whether it was just in the specific quadrennial review. >> newsgathering has come over -- nab often touts, newsgathering particularly during times of emergencies, look what stations are doing. news gathering, particularly at the network level, national level, has come under a lot of criticism by president trump. even asked the fcc should consider, whether revoke licenses of nbc because
president trump doesn't like nbc's reporting. i guess i'm curious to weigh in on what you think of that type of criticism of broadcasters? >> i would say that criticism between the presidency and the media in all of its forms is nothing new. it's existed since george washington's time. our president trump seems to enjoy the contest more than most and is very, raises it all the time and some of my broadcasters said, what will we do? donald trump will get you great ratings but you made need to beef up security. in the end there is no threat to the first amendment. the fcc is totally committed to the public policies of the communications act in an fcc license. so it's a, a lot of it is
bravado and it's part of the current political environment. i don't know how constructive it is but it's, it is quite a contest. seems more electric than normal. >> you don't have concern that he is asking the regulator of your industry to take an action based on politics and that a chairman pai would say, well if i don't do this i'm not going to be chairman for long? >> no, i have no worry about that i know ajit pai. he is totally committed to the first amendment. he respects the license that broadcasters deliver on every darn day, and it serves the american people very, very well. i think the atmospherics are a little bit difficult right now but in the end our most fundamental right in the first amendment, freedom of the press, freedom of religion and
conscience, there are very solid cornerstones. i don't know whether president trump has read sullivan versus "new york times." one of the things you learn first in law school. most and most of the issues around this are state law, not federal law but in the end the united states supreme court very committed to the freedom of the press. i chalk it to our president loves a good fight and it is amazing to watch but i'm not worried about our licenses nor about the integrity of the fcc and their commitment to the first amendment. cspan: senator smith, maybe you can set us straight. when we have the cable industry here at this table we hear about retransmission consent and some of their concerns. then we have the national association of broadcasters at the table seems to be a different issue for each group. every couple months there is a story about such and such
provider dropping such and such network. >> let me say the freight esteem i have for michael powell. my brother runs the cable association and in the end broadcasting and cable meet each other. it is fight overvalue of viewership and value of our content and these are business decisions engaged in a fray market decision and i would note for the record, viewership for broadcasting is much higher than cable. yet they pay the content, producers and cable pay themselves a lot more less watched programing than they pay us for our very highly-watched programing in the end our
broadcasters and cable friend have to come up with the right price that is fair and connected to viewership. cspan: when you look ahead five to 10 years, how are we going to be watching tv? will we still be calling it tv at that point? >> again, the future, to my view is very bright for broadcasting because of this new 3.0 receiver standard because it would give, it is investing dramatically into our, efficiency of our spectrum. it will wake up your phone so if there is emergency coming into your neighborhood, you can be alerted to that, through a broadcast signal. i have already said tremendous pictures it will provide and the sound capabilities it will give and augment. the internet, via broadcast signal is a one way signal. one source to everyone in the
geographic area. because it will be in the future internet interoperable, if a viewer wants to talk to them it will come back through a broadcast signal. and there will be the opportunity to have far more engagement with your television broadcaster. and they will be able, in the political world, i wish this existed when i was on the ballot but it will enable the ability of a broadcaster it to provide political advertising for members of congress just to the people in the districts they represent. >> instead of -- pay a lot of money for people who are not running. >> if you go to new york city during an election you see a lot of ads from new jersey. this will give the ability of the candidates to put their ads to people who can vote for them and leave everybody else free from seeing those ads who can't vote for them. cspan: can you turn those ads
off, if you want, as a consumer? >> i suppose but i think part of the advantage the interoperability is that if you choose to respond to something on television, they can then send ads to you that may be of interest to you. everybody doesn't necessarily like ads, but on the other hand that is how we move a lot of our commerce. that is really a central plank in the health of our economy is consumer information. it comes in the form of advertising. and so it will, it will make advertising more meaningful to you, more interesting to you. so, i just see the future for broadcast television is very, very bright indeed. cspan: gordon smith is the president and ceo of the national association of broadcasters and paul kirby is a senior editor at "telecommunications reports."
>> you're watching booktv on c-span2 with nonfiction books and authors every weekend. booktv,eg television for serious readers. [applause] >> good morning. wow, what a large crowd so it is my pleasure to be the presenter of our speaker. you're not here to see me, we all know that. the beauty is today in miami has got to be one of the nicest days we've had in a long time and we needed that. so it is a exciting day, but not only that but exciting day to have a distinguished guest here today. chris matthews began his career working for four democratic members of congress before moving on to media.