Lest we think all possible controversies have been settled, keep in mind that the FCC intends to take comment on public service obligations for digital broadcasters soon.
Deborah Tate said offering broadcasters the flexibility to offer multicast programming and enter into time brokerage agreements with third parties for unused bandwidth “will unleash the creativity of the marketplace” and we’ll see new entrants into the business. She supports seeking comment on public interest obligations but said it’s premature to make decisions on that when digital radio is in its infancy.
Robert McDowell said the order provides regulatory certainty that digital radio needs to provide data services to the public. “Our action allows the U.S. to catch up to several other countries.” He applauded the “courageous early adopters” who went ahead with conversions without a government mandate. “Thank goodness private industry did not wait to act.”
The agency waited “at least a year” to act on digital radio rules while the government debated whether to impose additional public service obligations on broadcasters, he said.
“We intend today’s order to spur the marketplace to encourage additional manufacturers” to become involved in the effort he said, “by taking the experimental label off digital radio.”
The benefits to the public interest will be measurable, and as for the multicast channels “let’s see how they go before we try to micromanage the market. My colleagues might be pleasantly surprised,” he said.
It’s better to allow nascent channels into the marketplace without hindering their progress. The FCC would adopt new rules if necessary, he said. “The discussion on public interest matters has delayed the item and that’s a shame. We could have had this done in July.”