[opendtv] Analysis: TV's New White Spaces Could Be Black Eye

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: OpenDTV Mail List <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 7 Nov 2008 08:26:27 -0500


TV's New White Spaces Could Be Black Eye
A media critique by Wayne Friedman , Thursday, November 6, 2008

THE FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION FREEING up those wireless white spaces in the broadcast spectrum should mean more competition for those big media companies.

Or, maybe not.

In essence, this could mean almost anyone could form their own TV network, sending his own user-generated programming from mobile device to mobile device. The white spaces -- unused, unlicensed part of the spectrum -- will be created when every analog TV signal moves to digital.

Traditional broadcasters such as ABC, NBC, and CBS are worried -- complaining that signals sent over that part of the spectrum could cause interference with broadcasts, or even wireless microphones at live events.

But that's not the real issue. It's really about new competitors -- say a big new media company or an individual -- that could crowd out traditional media with their own TV programming.

Is that so bad?

Consumer groups pushed the FCC to go in this direction -- as well as big tech-minded, young media companies like Google and Microsoft that would like nothing more than to gain greater access to more consumers.

But here's the downside: Decades ago, the prime access time period was created for TV stations to run their own programming in the hour before network prime-time shows commenced. The broadcast rule was to give small, independent TV producers a chance to compete.

The end result? Big media companies like CBS, Time Warner, or Walt Disney ended up owning time periods for their syndicated programming like "Wheel of Fortune" or "Friends" or "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."

Freeing white spaces sounds like a good idea, giving small guys a chance to compete. But we all know how this stuff usually turns out. Google and Microsoft, waiting in the wings to compete with traditional broadcasters, means only one thing -- big media versus big wannabe-media companies. Big deal.

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