One quick way to grow FTA

Echostar booth at 2010 NAB Show

Echostar's a separate company from Dish, so this photo isn't that relevant. Oh well.

Once again at a big convention, I’ve come up with an idea that has very little to do with the show.

This morning, I watched a presentation about mobile over-the-air TV. After that, I saw the keynote speech by NAB CEO Gordon Brown. (He’s a much better speaker than his predecessor, BTW.) Brown said that the public is better served by keeping broadcast TV rather than turning that spectrum over to wireless internet companies.

And that reminded me of the limited spectrum, the finite satellite positions taken up by pay-TV satellite providers.

By rule, a certain percentage of channels on each satellite have to be for non-profit, public interest programing. NASA TV, Angel One, and C-SPAN are three examples of PI channels.

Did those first two remind you of something? They used to be in the clear until Dish Network scrambled them a few months ago.

Dish interprets the PI mandate to provide them for free but only to active Dish receivers. What if the government wrote a more directed rule that, to provide the widest public service, all PI channels must stay unscrambled for any receiver? We’d get at least a dozen new channels, Dish would lose essentially no subscribers, and all of that public service programming would reach a wider audience. Sounds good to me!

(That photo of the Echostar booth here at the NAB Show isn’t strictly relevant to this topic. I just wanted to post one of the photos I took today.)