SBE Critical of FCC Broadcast Engineering Forum

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SBE Critical of FCC Broadcast Engineering Forum

Jun 17, 2010 3:37 PM

Indianapolis - Jun 17, 2010 - The Society of Broadcast Engineers has submitted an open letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski addressing the FCC Broadcast Engineering Forum scheduled for June 25, 2010. The SBE has taken issue with the convening a "broadcast engineering forum" and not inviting "the singular organization that represents broadcast engineers with more than 5,500 members and a long and positive history of working with the FCC."

The meeting has four stated objectives:
(1) Cellularization of Broadcast Architecture
(2) Methodologies for Repacking the TV Band
(3) Improvements in VHF Reception
(4) Advancements in Compression Technology

The SBE says it does not summarily oppose discussion and resolution of a viable and reasonable plan to make broadband services more available, but the organization is suspicious of the process that seems to have already made its own conclusions. The SBE sites the Spectrum Analysis: Options for Spectrum OBI Technical Paper No. 3 report as the basis of this assumption.

The SBE was not invited to participate, even though representatives of the National Association of Broadcasters and Maximum Service Television are participating. In addition, the working portions of the forum are to be closed to the public.

The following is the text from the SBE's letter.

Honorable Julius Genachowski, Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
445 Twelfth Street, S.W., Eighth Floor
Washington, D.C. 20554

Re: June 25, 2010 Broadcast Engineering Forum;
National Broadband Plan Implementation

Dear Chairman Genachowski:

The undersigned is privileged to serve as President of the Society of Broadcast Engineers, Incorporated (SBE) which is the national representative of the Broadcast Engineering profession in the United States. SBE has more than 5,000 members, most of whom are operating technical broadcast station personnel. SBE has served as an active technical resource in FCC proceedings involving broadcast station regulation and spectrum management affecting the Broadcast Service since the late 1970s.

The purpose of this letter is to express our dismay and serious concern about the Commission's recently announced Broadcast Engineering Forum, which is scheduled to occur on June 25. The announcement of this Broadcast Engineering Forum was not made until the June 9, 2010 "Advisory Notice" released by the Commission. By the time this Advisory Notice was issued, the Commission had already invited the participants to serve on the Forum's four working groups. SBE's representatives contacted the Media Bureau and Office of Engineering and Technology contacts listed on the Advisory Notice and were informed that the Forum participants were firmed up.

Given the extensive record that SBE has of interaction with the Commission, and given the fact that SBE is the one organization chartered to represent the interests of broadcast engineers, it was a surprise that no one directly associated with or representative of SBE was contacted about this forum, or invited to participate. While we were informed by Media Bureau staff that the Commission's intent was to involve individuals rather than organizations, it is quite apparent that multiple employees of the National Association of Broadcasters; multiple employees of the Association for Maximum Service Television; and employees of major broadcast networks and licensees were specifically included. In other words, the broadcast owners are being represented on this panel, but not broadcast engineers.

At best, the Bureau staff charged with organizing this Forum did so in a manner that is not conducive to an effective study of the four major topics up for discussion: Cellularization of Broadcast Architecture; Methodologies for Repacking the TV Band; Improvements in VHF Reception; and Advancements in Compression Technology. At worst, it appears that the participants in the panel were chosen in order to provide the Commission with the appearance of an industry consensus, evidencing a predetermined outcome: the reclamation of a large amount of spectrum utilized currently for free, over-the-air television service, and for the broadcast auxiliary facilities that are critical to the creation of content for broadcast, cablecast and satellite video delivery to the public, in favor of an auction of that broadcast, and broadcast auxiliary spectrum for broadband use. In fact, the "blueprint" for this predetermined outcome was just released in the form of the Commission's omnibus broadband initiative spectrum analysis.

Worse, the Commission is not even making public the working group sessions, but only a rapporteur-type session in the afternoon, reporting on conclusions of the working groups. This procedure, which presumably will provide the Commission with some material that will be used in the docket proceedings dealing with the reallocation of broadcast spectrum, is entirely contrary to the "transparency" in Commission processes that you specifically promised, and President Obama promised for government operations generally, at the beginning of the present Administration, and at the beginning of your tenure. Candidly, we expected better.

Assuming that this is not the fait accompli that it clearly appears to be, SBE respectfully requests that you review the procedures for this forum, and make this forum a public participation event. Alternatively, SBE requests that the Commission postpone the Forum and reconstitute it at a later date, involving a broader and more representative group of broadcast engineers. We would be pleased to work with you, or with Media Bureau or Office of Engineering and Technology staff, in the process.

Vincent A. Lopez, CEV CBNT

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