Rehr ended I don’t know the new head of the National Association of Broadcasters, David Rehr. His predecessor Eddie Fritts and I had a long, lively debate about our respective industries. Sometimes we took shots at each other, and sometimes we worked in tandem on things that were of importance to both cable and broadcasters. It’s one of those times when we need to work together. The Rehr NAB, however, seems to be doing some very strange things for a group that is seeking help on the “DTV Transition” anywhere it can find it. No one should forget that the “transition” is not the cable transition, or the satellite transition to digital. We’ve already done that. It’s the broadcasters who are the ones both responsible for getting the government to foster the transition from analog to digital over-the-air transmission, and the ones who clearly have the most to lose if the public does not experience a smooth switchover. Cable has been asked to help. We have not only agreed, we have taken the lead in announcing public education campaigns, getting PSAs on the air, and making sure our customers know that we will take care of them during the transition—that they need not worry about their televisions going blank. That’s a legitimate fear for folks not hooked up to an MVPD. If they are totally reliant on over-the-air reception and don’t get a special tuner to upgrade existing analog-only television sets, those sets will no longer work on Feb. 17, 2009, when analog broadcast transmitters are required to turn off. So the word has to be spread about how to get government vouchers for the purchase of new tuners, who needs them, how to hook them up, etc. Cable has agreed to actively help in that effort. So what showed up on newscasts the other day? An unfortunate story about an older lady who took a hammer to some equipment at a cable customer service center because she was frustrated with their response to her. It shouldn’t happen. But as the cable operator noted, with over 200 million interactions with customers every year, there are bound to be times when we don’t fill every expectation. It still shouldn’t happen, but it does. What’s most upsetting, however, is not that we had a lapse in customer service (it still happens too often, but we are getting better) but that this story was reportedly promoted and distributed by none other than the NAB! Now let’s get some things clear: the broadcasters don’t even offer customer service. They don’t “interact” with their viewers other than to count them so they can charge advertisers ever-increasing rates. They get free spectrum that the government could have made lots of money auctioning off instead of charging us all taxes. And in election years, they get obscene amounts of money from the political system rather than supply the “public airwaves” for the public good and help get money out of politics. Could we start hammering the broadcasters about all this? Easily. Could we ask the NCTA PR folks to spend their time taking shots at the broadcasters rather than try to help them on the “DTV Transition?” Sure. But we’re not. At least not yet. It seems to me it’s up to the NAB’s new chief, Mr. Rehr, to make it clear to his own troops what the priorities are. Do you want to engage in cheap shots and “Rehr-ending” each other, or do you really want cooperation and help on the transition. You can’t have it both ways.

The Daily

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Cable Pioneers Headed to Primetime

With the pandemic putting a kibosh on the annual Pioneers’ banquet, the 22-member class will be inducted via a ceremony carried on C-SPAN 3 Dec 4 at 9pm ET/6pm PT.

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