LAS VEGAS - Fighting back against those who claim their industry is dying, the National Association of Broadcasters is trying to make the case here that consumers are turning back to over-the-air television as they drop their cable subscriptions.
The issue gained new steam Monday morning with the release of a Consumer Electronics Association poll that the group said found only 13 percent of those polled support allowing broadcasters to keep their spectrum for over-the-air broadcasting while 65 percent favor auctioning that spectrum for other uses such as wireless broadband.
CEA has been arguing that broadcasters are inefficient users of spectrum and that it could be better utilized by wireless firms to help meet the nation's growing demand for wireless broadband.
The NAB has voiced concerns with an FCC proposal that would call on broadcasters to voluntarily give up spectrum in exchange for a share of the proceeds from the auction of those airwaves. The FCC and other federal regulators say more spectrum is needed to meet the growing demand for wireless broadband.
In response to the poll, NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton shot back in a statement that, "CEA apparently is not aware that the number of broadcast TV viewers is growing, not shrinking, as evidenced by the surge in pay TV cord-cutters."
The idea that more Americans are dropping their cable subscriptions and turning back to broadcast television came up at a morning session focused on the incentive auction issue. John Hane, a lawyer with Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw Pittman who follows spectrum issues for broadcasters, argued that in unveiling its incentive auction proposal last year, the FCC has failed to take into account these "cord cutters" who are turning back to television.
The CEA poll, conducted by Zogby in early April of 2,138 Americans, also said that only 10 percent of Americans get breaking news from over-the-air broadcasts compared with 38 percent who turn to Internet news sites for such information.
The poll, however, did not talk about other types of news. Wharton argued that, "Every survey but for those funded by CEA finds that most Americans continue to rely on broadcasting as their primary source for news."