Obama Transition Team Met Secretly With Lobbyists on Digital Switch

Dec 10, 2008  •  Post A Comment

After Barack Obama ran for president promising change and openness, and making a point of refusing to accept lobbyists’ contributions, the president-elect’s transition team secretly held a meeting with broadcasting lobbyists to discuss the digital TV changeover.
The unannounced meeting was held Friday in Washington. Among those present were National Association of Broadcasters president David Rehr, National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Kyle McSlarrow and Washington representatives for Fox and ABC, among others.
The meeting was held as the transition team’s Web site continues to proclaim that the incoming administration will not be beholden to industry lobbyists, quoting a 2007 Des Moines speech by then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.
“I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over,” he said in the speech. “I have done more than any other candidate in this race to take on lobbyists—and won. They have not funded my campaign, they will not run my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am president.”
The meeting with lobbyists from the broadcasting industry featured members of the Obama transition team talking about expectations and hopes for the digital TV changeover set for Feb. 17. It was chaired by Tom Wheeler, who heads the transition’s Science, Tech, Space and Arts Team.
Mr. Wheeler is a former president of the NCTA and also headed the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association. He is currently on leave from his post as managing director of Core Capital Partners, a venture capital firm.
The meeting was first reported by TVNewsday and confirmed by some participants or their spokesmen.
At the meeting, Obama transition officials asked that media companies do more to help viewers confused about the digital transition, including setting up more call centers to answer questions.
Obama transition officials didn’t return phone calls or e-mails asking about the meeting.
Just this week, the House Energy & Commerce Committee issued a report ripping Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin for secrecy in running the FCC.
A major criticism:
“Important commission matters have not been handled in an open and transparent manner, thereby raising suspicions both inside and outside the commission that some parties are not being treated fairly,” the report said.
(Edited 12/12/08 at 1:38 p.m. ET to fix year in third paragraph.)


    The Feb. 17th shut-off of analog service, if not delayed, will become the Obama administration’s first consumer crisis, with upwards of 10 million antenna-dependent TV viewers disenfranchised.
    The public is not ready for analog shut-off of analog, due in large part to poor planning and a backlog in the coupon program. And because DTV signals are more fragile in outlying areas of a station’s footprint, broadcasters could find themselves playing to smaller audiences — causing advertisers to demand makegoods in a poor economy.
    It’s doubtful that the Obama team heard the unvarished truth from these lobbyists, who bear some of the responsibility for the transition’s deficiencies. Nobody is advocating for viewers who can’t or won’t buy cable or satellite. I have no dog in this fight. But as a consumer advocate and someone with knowledge of this issue, I’ve taken it upon myself to represent the unseen couch potatoes of America.
    Canada’s target date for analog shut-off is Aug. 31st, 2011. The best solution would be to “conform” the dates for North America.
    Here’s the straight 4-1-1:
    OR Members.NowPublic.com/scrivener RE: “DTV Deadline…”

  2. Why is this article written like a slam piece against the Obama team?
    They met with lobbyists and asked them to do more for the transition – SO WHAT?
    When you find that the Obama team is taking money from lobbyists write that up this kind of tone and innuendo – until then, keep your politics to yourself and report about television a television site.

  3. I definitely agree with Michael Murphey. Everybody seems to want to read into and create something wrong with every move the Barack Obama Team is making, and they are not even in Washington yet. I feel that what they are already doing, no other organizational team ever did before going into office: trying to prepare the way to cope with the muliple disasters left behind. Why don’t we hear anything more from Mr. Bush’s Team who are still responsible for a part of, or all that is happening to our Country, with much more to spill into the new Presidential Team’s lap. I for one appreciate and approve with every move they are making: let’s face it, with so much wrong, they are bound to make mistakes along the way…. They are only human, like the rest of us.

  4. If the Transition Obama Team met SECRETLY, why is it already posted here?

  5. Seriously, what more could the industry possibly do to “inform consumers?”
    If you don’t know about the analog shut-off, you’ve been living under a rock and/or haven’t had your television turned on for the last two years.
    There’s literally no way you could have missed the ads if your body is above room temperature.
    Here’s a nice test – if you complain that your analog TV service is gone, you obviously are too ignorant of the world around you to be allowed to vote ever again.

  6. Let’s see, the meeting was unannounced and Obama officials wouldn’t return phone calls or email about it.
    If McCain had won and had done the same thing, people would be demanding “investigations.”

  7. I didn’t vote for this guy and have a lot of doubts about his abilities and plans, but who cares if he meets with a lobbyist. The problem is not an organization with a special interest, but that organization being able to peddle undue influence. Hopefully everybody out there realizes that all the talk on the campaign trail about lobbyists, transparency in government, change, etc was just just that…talk. The only real change will be the faces in office, more government spending, and higher taxes.

  8. TV analog signal should be turn off few years ago. I wonder why it is still around here in America that long. I have to keep delete those analog channels whenever they show up on my tv channel list, so annoyance.

  9. Just because he is informed by those who know their industry, doesn’t mean he can be bought. If Obama ignored those who know the most, might as well keep Bush in there…

  10. I agree this article looks like an Obama slam. If you read the article it isn’t, but the headline does lead the reader to read it.
    There IS a LOT of confusion. I think folks ignore the information. (like we do any advertisement)
    I live where there is no cable. Most of us use antennas. My 81 year old neighbor watches a lot of TV and totally understood the commercials. She called the 800# and got her coupons. I took her to the store to get her converter boxes and hooked them up for her. BUT a young couple next door, who are more into gaming, said “Why bother about getting a box till Feb? They aren’t going digital till then.” OMG…!
    I believe that the stores are causing more confusion than any body could imagine. When I took that 81 year old neighbor lady to the store she headed straight for the converter boxes, I went over to look at cameras. 10 min later I wander over to carry her boxes. She was upset! The clerk was trying to convince her she didn’t need a converter box but rather a new TV. As soon as I showed up he changed his tune. (Grrrrr) Stores are trying to keep their heads afloat and if they can pray on anyone they suspect isn’t clear on what the transition is they will.

  11. Why doesn’t this article include quotes from anyone who was supposedly at the meeting?

  12. Dear Michael Murphy,
    In light of the Illinois Gov. Scandal is it OK to go ahead and write articles with “this kind of tone and innuendo”? I reference your Dec. 10 post above of course.
    I think that the problem here is framed in the comments above – there has been a multi-year compaign that there will be a positive change in TV usage (analog no longer an option) that has a deadline (February 17,2009). As is typical in hurricane evacuations and the like, some people will just ignore the information and wait for the “prepaid credit card” handout. This is a typical government intrusion that will attempt to make people feel that they are victims and that the government is protecting them while in fact it is just undermining the process.
    My Dad once told me that if you want cattle to graze in another field that has lush grass you just open the gate and they will find it longggg before they get very hungry…but if you start hauling hay to the old barren field they will stay there and eventually become too weak to make the journey to the new food supply. I guess he was somehow preparing me for the twenty-first century in America.
    Have a blessed holiday season all!

  13. The one problem NOT being mentioned with the DTV changeover is the CLIFF EFFECT that might stop many marginal viewers from getting anything if a much higher, larger antenna is used. Also if stations are in different directions more than one antenna may be needed to get all the stations. In my case I have two antennas pointed in two directions. The coupon program works well and is really fast for a government program.

  14. Is the booing of Sarah Palin on last night of ‘Dancing With the Stars’ improper? just do not like Sarah Palin, seriously do not buy her publication. Don’t be her Facebook companion. No need to vote for her but remember to have some good manners, booing is actually so rude.

  15. The extremely expected Glee Britney Spears occurrence was shown last night, with this commonly distressed except reportedly recovering vocalist generating a remarkable physical appearance, got to completely love her for this, better than that Lohan woman.

  16. I’ll gear this review to 2 types of people: current Zune owners who are considering an upgrade, and people trying to decide between a Zune and an iPod. (There are other players worth considering out there, like the Sony Walkman X, but I hope this gives you enough info to make an informed decision of the Zune vs players other than the iPod line as well.)

  17. Dear Nevada, Be sure to stop Sharron Angle … the woman’s claims appear to be an illustration of incoherent bigotry.

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