New Broadcast Coalition Promotes Digital TV

Group says spectrum auctions could jeopardize digital initiatives

As they fight on Capitol Hill to keep the TV spectrum from getting yanked out from under them, broadcasters launched a coalition Tuesday to promote the new ways they are using their digital spectrum since making the transition to digital 28 months ago.

The Future of TV Coalition is made up of 21 organizations, including digital TV networks like Bounce TV that are multicast by TV stations and the Open Mobile Video Coalition, the organization that is rolling out mobile digital TV.

By promoting TV's digital initiatives, the coalition hopes to serve as a counterpoint to the wireless industry, which has been hammering home the idea that TV broadcasting is an older, less relevant medium.

"We've not told our story well enough and we need to do a better job," said Gordon Smith, the president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, which facilitated the coalition. "We're trying to reassert ourselves."

Still, the timing of the coalition is curious, as it comes just 22 days before the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction—the "supercommittee"—is due to release its proposal for reducing the nation's deficit, which is likely to include authorizing the Federal Communications Commission to hold incentive auctions for spectrum voluntarily relinquished by broadcasters.

Though broadcasters do not oppose voluntary auctions, they are worried about what will happen to TV broadcasters that choose to remain in business, and whether the ability of broadcasters to fully develop multicasting and mobile DTV will be jeopardized.

"There is a lot of momentum behind spectrum auctions," Smith admitted. "We want to say to all members of Congress, particularly the supercommittee, that if auctions go forward, please protect the signal contours of broadcasters. If [repacking] is done in a rush, the things that will be sacrificed are multicasting and mobile DTV."

The coalition was set to hit the Hill following the press conference. "I see us growing rapidly enough to have a political impact," said Andrew Young, the former mayor of Atlanta and co-founder of Bounce TV, a digital network targeting African Americans.