Digital has arrived, Kennard tells NAB

Chairman discusses anxiety over the low-power FM service

LAS VEGAS — Addressing the National Assn. of Broadcasters for the third time in his tenure as FCC chairman, William E. Kennard declared that all of broadcasting’s competitors are going (or have gone) digital.

“Analog is over. ‘Resistance is futile,’ as they say on ‘Star Trek,’ ” he quipped.

Kennard said broadcasting’s strength is in the distribution of popular content to large numbers of people simultaneously.

He believes in fostering partnerships between companies that will bid on upcoming auctions for the 700 MHz (digital) spectrum, and the broadcasters who operate in that spectrum. “This is a marriage just waiting to happen.”

In his speech Tuesday, Kennard also touched on a hot button issue between the Federal Communications Commission and NAB: low-power FM radio. The chairman expressed concern over broadcasters who have used their considerable resources to deny churches, schools and community-based organizations just a little “piece of the broadcast pie.”

“There will be no harmful interference on existing FM stations,” Kennard said, but some broadcasters in attendance wondered aloud how he defines “harmful.”

Citing his record on shutting down more pirate radio stations than any other chairman in the history of the agency, Kennard renewed his offer to work with broadcasters to address their anxiety about the low-power FM service.

On the subject of DTV and the cable digital “must carry,” he said the central issue is achieving a balance of equity and rights. One of his frustrations, Kennard said, is that the broadcasters expect the government to mandate dual carriage of signals. “We are not going to rush to judgment on this issue.”

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