Though I was not struck with any particular concern, apparently there has been just a touch of anxiety amongst broadcasters that new FCC Chair Tom Wheeler did not appoint anyone with a broadcast background to his staff. An unnamed broadcast industry executive told Politico earlier this week, “That creates some heartburn for us.” Maybe I’m still sanguine due to Gigi Sohn joining Wheeler’s inner circle.
In any event, Wheeler sat down with Broadcasting and Cable on Thursday to set broadcasters a little more at ease. He issued the assurance that “broadcasters fulfill an important public service. The broadcasters distribute in many ways now, including over the air. And in a world in which we now have digital pathways, rather than analog pathways, [the issue is] what is the most efficient use of the spectrum. And that doesn’t mean chucking broadcasting.”
Television broadcasters’ biggest concern revolves around the upcoming incentive auction, where they’ll be asked to give back spectrum–for which they’ll be paid–that can be allocated to wireless broadband and other technologies. He reinforced that “the question on the table is how we use spectrum most effectively,” and that approach is not limited to broadcasters. Wheeler also noted that he is asking the Defense Department the same questions.
Of course, the new Chairman isn’t even a full week into his term, and there is quite the inventory of things for him to deal with, much of it having to do with broadcast. It’s nice that Wheeler decided to ease broadcasters’ fears a little bit, but it’s way too early to say yet what to expect from him, and I’m sure he’s still figuring it all out, too.