Nearly 100,000 broadcast industry professionals jammed the Las Vegas
Convention Center and the Sands Exposition Center at NAB '97. A victory
in the "must carry" rule, FCC approval of High Definition TV
(HDTV), discussions of the Children's Television Act, convergence between
TV and personal computers, and the public obligations of broadcasters were
all addressed at workshops, seminars and speeches.
The topic on everyone's lips was HDTV, which will be available in
the top ten viewing markets (roughly 30 percent of TV households) by Christmas
'98, and the top 30 markets reaching about half of TV households by Christmas
A key requirement for obtaining digital licenses is they will come with
a "public interest" obligation, According to FCC Chairman Reed
Hundt who set the tone for the conference in his opening remarks April
No amount of competition should be allowed to compete away public
interest obligations," Hundt said, and he went on to observe that
the market place was driving broadcasters away from airing a sufficient
level of educational TV aimed at children. "That's why we needed fair,
clear rules which would ensure that everyone did a minimal amount, instead
of vague rules which would allow some to do none while others carried all
the load for the broadcast industry,".
"The same market forces are at work in the decreasing amount of time
broadcasters are devoting to PSAs," Hundt went on to say. "A
couple of weeks ago I expressed concern that the number and duration of
PSAs was going down and suggested that part of the reason for this was
the dramatic rise in self-promotional advertising broadcasters are doing.
It seems to me this is a trend that should worry all of us, but especially
those broadcasters that want to run PSAs to serve their community."
Hundt said that the broadcast community should decide whether its strategy
should be to defend the rights of the few who do not want to serve as public
trustees and who want to maximize profits, or seek solutions to ensure
that broadcasters act as public trustees. "Very soon, the Commission
will issue a Notice that will allow us to begin considering these public
interest obligations in an increasingly complex and digital marketplace,"