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Opinion: Ken English Responds to Gary Shapiro of CEA

Over on AVSForum, Ken English, who is an engineer at a television station in the western United States, posted an excellent response to Gary Shapiro's comments in this article on CNet. I sought his permission to do some editing on it and post it on RabbitEars, as I think he did an excellent job. I would like to thank him for granting me permission to repost this response.

Bear in mind that these comments are his own, and do not represent the views and opinions of his employer.

I kind of wish this software didn't bold the teaser like it does. This paragraph is here just to provide some space.

Gary Shapiro, the head of the Consumer Electronics Association, is frustrated by TV broadcasters' lack of innovation, and he isn't shy about voicing what he thinks they should do with spectrum licenses that have been give to them for free.

I remember when we broadcasters did innovate, helping his buddies at the CEA sell tens of millions of HDTV sets, when broadcasters were the only ones with HD programming.

Shapiro: "First of all, broadcasters never paid for these licenses. Meanwhile, satellite companies have paid for their spectrum licenses, and so have wireless operators."

I'd love to show Mr. Shapiro the books, which show how much we have "paid" for spectrum via public service and conforming to the never-ending FCC mandates we broadcasters have to absorb the costs of.

Shapiro: "I don't view broadcast TV as free. You have to suffer through a lot of advertising. Also, there are other places to get news and entertainment for free. Most of the video online is free. There are millions of Web sites with phenomenal video."

Show me a professional, commercial website that does not contain advertising. So much for "free" if you use his analogy.

(Editor's note: Not to mention the fact that cable and satellite TV are both packed with advertisements as well.)

Shapiro: "There are free sources of broadband. Libraries offer free access to the Internet. There are lots of free Wi-Fi hot spots popping up all over the place. And literally billions of dollars has been poured into schools to provide broadband access and equipment."

I like to watch TV at home, with my family or friends, not sitting in a public library with the sound muted, or in a McDonalds, or at the local grammar school.

(Editor's note: Schools and libraries are often filtering Internet connections these days. My local public school system here in Virginia does not provide Internet access to the public and heavily filters what is provided to students. The local library has time limits that would not permit watching a full hour-long show without even accounting for any filtering.)

Shapiro: "I spent years pushing the broadcast industry over the digital high-definition TV transition. I thought they would see this as a competitive advantage over cable TV. For cable the transition to digital and HD required some equipment investment. But for broadcasters they just had to invest a little in transmission equipment. But they were reluctant to do it. Satellite saw the opportunity and they switched immediately. It took cable some time. But broadcasters had to be almost mandated by the government to make the switch."

This guy claims to represent the electronics industry? A "little in transmission equipment"? Who does he think he's kidding? We spent millions to build out digital transmission facilities, and tens of millions to offer HDTV. Does he think that broadcasters buy their equipment at Radio Shack and Best Buy?

And we bought and installed (not to mention debugged) all of that with absolutely no additional income, unlike the satellite and cable companies, who can always raise their rates or create another pay tier. Do you see an "HD Access Fee" on your bill from the local stations each month? Oh, wait, we don't send you bills!

Shapiro: "But broadcasters have basically gotten stuck and addicted to government regulations. So they have these crazy rules and they love them. I've asked broadcasters if they could push a button and get rid of all these regulations, would they do it. And they say no. They like the regulations."_

To this last comment, I can only offer a one-word answer. And, on the grounds of moral decency, I can't say it here. But I can replace it with "IDIOT!"

(Editor's Note: I can't imagine that any broadcaster wanted E/I, or strict indecency regulations, or required public interest programming that has no viewers. Like any industry, there are certain regulations that broadcasters like such as must-carry/retransmission consent, but this statement by Shapiro really makes no sense at all.)


1. On Wednesday, June 22 2011, 16:07 by Ryan N2RJ

Well it's crystal clear here is that the CEA is the master of lies and deception. This is why I never ever send anyone to Antennaweb. Always to TVFool and also this site.

2. On Wednesday, June 22 2011, 16:35 by dkreichen1968

Yes Ryan, I believe that Antennaweb was designed to discourage antenna use. No, I don't need a giant antenna to pull in LOS stations 25 miles away. Shapiro's rhetoric has gotten to the place that I'm not sure if anyone other than our current FCC Chairman is taking him at all seriously. By the way, the FCC website is currently down. "Reimagined?" Yeah!!!

3. On Thursday, June 23 2011, 01:31 by Mark

Oh BTW Gary, broadband is not free either. I work for a telecom which will gladly sell you access (with data caps) or if you prefer, you can buy a bundle from cable (shudder). Library access (if you can find an empty terminal) is subsidized by taxpayers. So considering all of this, I'll stick with broadcast.

4. On Friday, June 24 2011, 01:47 by itsthemultipath!

What does he mean when he says broadcasters were slow in launching HDTV service ?!? Broadcasters in many cities put HDTV digital service on the air before the turn of the century and, for years, sent HD programming out to empty audiences.
The public, for the most part, was denied the choice to buy DTV for years while retailers waited for the cable and satellite packages they resold to go HD themselves. They still try to discourage OTA every way they can (not selling antennas, or telling customers that OTA is not HD - a lie).