Should Traditional Broadcasters Turn Off Their Internet Ambitions?
The alarm bells should be going off with everyone that has a vested interest in broadcasting. The recent admission by former FCC Chair Reed Hundt that the FCC, as early as 1994, was promoting Broadband over Broadcasting as the one and only “common medium” combined with the current FCC National Broadband Plan should be great concern to all broadcasters. Hundt also admitted that the broadcaster move from analog to digital was “delayed” by the FCC in order to give broadband a running start advantage over broadcasters.
That is an unbelievable admission by a former FCC commissioner. Fast forward to 2010, now by forcing broadcasters to shrink their spectrum for broadband is another major slap at broadcasters. Broadcasters should be very vigilant to fight this power grab for two reasons. One, yes, it is true that broadband has benefited broadcasters to some degree. Companies like CBS have embraced the new medium with open arms, however, over the air broadcast still holds the lions share of viewers and listeners and will for the foreseeable future because of the engineering benefit of content delivery. Tower, fiber optics and cable delivery are still the best way to deliver content in the audio or video medium.
You may notice that while streaming on the Internet via computer or cell phone, customers still experience internet back up because there is not enough bandwidth to accommodate hundreds of thousands of people logging on at the same time. Imagine when millions attempt to access streaming audio and video in their homes, office or mobile. The back up would be so great that internet access could become inoperable. Towers, fiber and cable, however, do not have these issues. The engineering is still good for millions to access. The only inhibitor is coverage. Most consumers are happy with local coverage and get their information and entertainment from broadcasters that still embrace great content.
Second, government rules will only lead to government control at some point. Hundt admits that the U.S. is following the lead of “China”. If that is true and we follow the Google story in China where Chinese government regulations impose restrictions on Google’s content, a case may be made that at some point this government will impose its rules in what content can be delivered to the people. Hundt claims that there will be more diversity and an international open market, but I contend that when the government gets in the business of watching and regulating content, it will eventually control it. Just look at what Hundt and the FCC admitted in controlling the process of analog to digital for broadcasters. The consumers were the losers by the delay and the television broadcasters have been disadvantaged from a set back in years of delay. Now radio broadcasters are attempting to move into the digital world with an engineering flawed system called HD Radio. It does not work and it is FCC approved. Could this be another devious plan at the FCC to see this fail in favor of broadband internet radio. It would not surprise me, since hearing the Hundt admission from his Harvard speech.
It may be an extreme opinion and I am not there yet, but should broadcasters consider moving away from the internet model. Why contribute to our own demise? A short term gain in revenue and additional customers via the internet delivery system may in fact lead to the long term vanishing of the traditional broadcast model, where local free content with free speech is the champion of the day.