WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Raycom Media President and CEO Pat LaPlatney testified this morning on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on "Exploring the Value of Spectrum to the U.S. Economy."
Below is his testimony as prepared for delivery.
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Good morning, Chairman Wicker, Ranking Member Schatz and members of the subcommittee. My name is Pat LaPlatney, and I am the president and CEO of Raycom Media, where I oversee 60 broadcast television stations stretching from Hattiesburg to Honolulu, as well as a number of production and digital media properties.
I am testifying today on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters and its 1,300 full-power television stations that serve communities across the country with free, locally-focused programming. I appreciate you inviting me here to speak about the upcoming, voluntary upgrade that broadcasters across the country, and in other parts of the world are making to the Next Generation Television standard, ATSC 3.0.
In a world where broadband access is an expectation on par with electricity and water, and social media is ubiquitous, the importance of local broadcasting and the trusted news coverage it affords is paramount. Through Next Gen TV, broadcasters will deliver all of this along with the most-watched entertainment programming and sports to your constituents in new and exciting ways.
So what is Next Gen TV?
- Next Gen TV is a crystal clear Ultra HD capable picture that enhances the broadcast viewing and listening experience;
- Next Gen TV is more effective emergency alerting capabilities that will save more lives;
- Next Gen TV integrates the best of broadcast and broadband to offer interactive content such as drop-down menus with sports scores or movie information;
- Next Gen TV enables access to broadcast television through smartphones and tablets, ensuring that our local stations’ content is available virtually anywhere, anytime and through any platform that viewers desire;
- Finally, Next Gen TV is spectrally efficient, meaning it offers more channels for free with the same amount of spectrum. No expensive cable bill or data plan is required.
Simply put, Next Gen TV will enhance the ability of local broadcasters to impact the communities we serve. The recent broadcast coverage of the tragic tornado in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and the hurricanes in the Puna District on the Big Island of Hawaii provide ample evidence of the potential viewer benefits that Next Gen TV will afford. Through my stations’ wall to wall coverage, Next Gen TV would have enabled more and better emergency services, including enhanced alerting, interactive menus with hyper-local detail, and the potential for mobile access had cellular signals failed.
A broad coalition including public and commercial broadcasters, consumer electronics manufacturers and public safety advocates has petitioned the FCC to allow stations to conduct a voluntary, market-driven transition to this new Next Gen TV standard. And after several months, the FCC unanimously approved a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking last week. Broadcasters stand willing and ready to make the necessary investments in our infrastructure to enable an upgrade to Next Gen TV. We simply need the FCC to quickly finalize these rules in order to move forward. We applaud the FCC for its work to date, and we encourage the committee to stay engaged.
Before I conclude, I want to highlight one issue currently before Congress that does pose challenges to viewers’ ability to enjoy the benefits of Next Gen TV – successful completion of the broadcast incentive auction. As the auction winds its way to completion, one thing is certain: the broadcast industry will end up with less spectrum. So the ability of those non-participating stations to repack successfully into a smaller broadcast band, without viewer disruption, is critical.
To that end, I want to thank the committee leadership, Senators Moran and Schatz, as well as their cosponsors, Senators Blumenthal, Blunt, Fisher and Udall for their work on draft legislation that ensures broadcasters have adequate time and resources to successfully repack following the close of the incentive auction. Your legislation will make certain that no consumer will lose access to their broadcast service as a result of this repack. It is just this certainty that an investment in Next Gen TV requires.Thank you, and I look forward to answering your questions.
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The National Association of Broadcasters is the premier advocacy association for America's broadcasters. NAB advances radio and television interests in legislative, regulatory and public affairs. Through advocacy, education and innovation, NAB enables broadcasters to best serve their communities, strengthen their businesses and seize new opportunities in the digital age. Learn more at www.nab.org.