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US is Now Tyingwith China in 5G Race’: Report

U.S. companies are looking more to Washington to help them compete with their Chinese counterparts

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FILE - Attendees wait in line for a 5G exhibition at the Qualcomm booth during CES 2019 consumer electronics show, at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Jan. 10, 2019 (Representational image). VOA

In the U.S. economic battle with China, the Chinese government is often portrayed as a kingmaker, making large investments in research and paving the way for Chinese companies to thrive.

China, it turns out, is a good foil for U.S. industries as they ask the U.S. government to do more to help them compete globally.

Two new reports out this week, one from the U.S. wireless industry and the other from the U.S. semiconductor industry, show how U.S. companies are looking more to Washington to help them compete with their Chinese counterparts.

CTIA, which represents the U.S. wireless industry, found in its report that the U.S. is now tied with China when it comes to “its 5G readiness.” 5G is the high-speed wireless network that is being built around the world.

Last year, the U.S. was in third place, trailing China and South Korea, respectively, according to CTIA.

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FILE – Visitors look at a display for 5G wireless technology from Chinese technology firm Huawei at the PT Expo in Beijing, Sept. 26, 2018. VOA

US tied with China in 5G race

What has propelled U.S. firms? Increased industry investment in 5G networks plus “government action to reform infrastructure policies and make more spectrum available to wireless operators,” according to CTIA.

The stakes are said to be high in the global race to 5G. The first nation to the broadest 5G network will attract more investment and create more jobs than countries that lag behind, CTIA research has found. The U.S. was first to 4G deployment, which led to more than $100 billion added to the nation’s gross domestic product, according to CTIA.

But it isn’t clear that first is always best.

The United Kingdom was seen to be behind other countries in its 4G deployment, and the “U.K. operators launched when they needed it, and they were able to capitalize,” said Caroline Gabriel, a principal analyst at Analysys Mason, a telecom research firm.

“I really question if it matters,” she said. “There was a lot of tub-thumping.”

CTIA recommends that an upcoming Trump administration “National Spectrum Strategy” include a “five-year schedule of auctions that puts more high-, mid- and low-band spectrum in the hands of America’s wireless industry.” In November, the FCC launched its high-band spectrum auction for 5G.

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A close-up of the Infineon microcontroller kit XMC 4700 is pictured at an exhibition during the German semiconductor manufacturer Infineon’s annual shareholder meeting in Munich, Feb. 21, 2019. VOA

More federal investment urged

For its part, the Semiconductor Industry Association, in its report, called for the U.S. government to increase its investment in semiconductor research and release the cap on green cards for qualified candidates.

The U.S. semiconductor industry is the world leader in semiconductors, commanding nearly half of the $469 billion global market in 2018, the trade association said. But China has increased its investment in semiconductor research as it tries to lessen its reliance on importing semiconductors.

“Overseas governments, such as China’s, are seeking to challenge U.S. leadership by making significant investments to achieve breakthroughs in semiconductor technology, artificial intelligence and quantum computing,” the SIA report said.

SIA calls for tripling federal investment in semiconductor research over the next five years to $5 billion annually and doubling federal funding for semiconductor research to $40 billion annually.

Remove green card caps

It also calls on the U.S. to remove caps on green cards for qualified graduates in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to meet short-term demand for talent. It also calls for the U.S. to boost its federal funding to $1.5 billion annually for STEM education, a 50 percent increase.

ALSO READ: US will not Send High-Level Officials to Attend China’s Belt and Road Summit in Beijing

John Neuffer, SIA president and CEO, said in a statement that U.S. semiconductor leadership is thanks to the strength of its research, workforce and its ability to sell its products around the world.

“Congress and the administration should enact policies that reinforce these pillars and keep America at the head of the class in semiconductor technology,” he said. (VOA)

Next Story

U.S. Media Industry Going Through A Bad Phase

On the surface, it may look as though the average U.S. media consumer is awash in choices: websites, podcasts, cable and broadcast TV, satellite, but this is not the reality

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Some front pages and section fronts of the Orange County Register are seen in the newsroom in Santa Ana, Calif., Dec. 27, 2012. VOA

On the surface, it may look as though the average U.S. media consumer is awash in choices: websites, podcasts, cable and broadcast TV, satellite and over-the-air radio, and yes, even printed newspapers. But the reality is different.

There is an oft-quoted line from Thomas Jefferson about the importance of a free press to the stability of the newly formed United States: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government,” he wrote to a colleague, “I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Almost always, though, the words Jefferson wrote next are forgotten. He added, “But I should mean that every man should receive those papers & be capable of reading them.”

His insight was that a press free from government interference is a necessary condition for a healthy democracy, but not a sufficient one. A free press isn’t very useful if nobody has access to relevant reporting on the issues that affect them.

If Jefferson were able to look at the media landscape in his country today, particularly at the local level, he would almost certainly be worried.

Consolidation

News sources, particularly local ones, are increasingly controlled by a limited number of companies that have bought up smaller news organizations and consolidated them.

This is perhaps most visible in the world of newspapers. Twenty percent of the newspapers that were active 15 years ago have been shut down, according to the University of North Carolina, leaving hundreds of locales without a local paper.

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A specialist works at the post that handles Gannett on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Aug. 5, 2014. VOA

Employment in newspaper newsrooms has fallen by 47% since 2004, according to the Pew Research Center. Meanwhile, companies like GateHouse Media and Gannett  control hundreds of publications using centralized news gathering that decreases the focus on their communities.

In August, the two companies announced a plan to merge, a deal that would create a company controlling more than 250 daily newspapers, as well as hundreds more weeklies and community papers. The merged companies would be several times larger than the next biggest newspaper company, Digital First Media, which in 2018 owned 51 daily papers and 158 other publications.

Digital First, which is owned by the hedge fund Alden Global Capital, has been at the forefront of another troubling trend: buying up newspapers, laying off newsroom staff, and liquidating the papers’ real estate assets.

Digital First, which also goes by MediaNews Group, or MNG, did not respond to a request for comment from VOA. However, in response to a Washington Post story earlier this year, the company said “MNG is committed to the newspaper business and a long-term investor in the space. MNG’s focus is on getting publications to a place where they can operate profitably and sustainably and continue to serve their communities.”

Job cuts, quick profits

“They’re owned, essentially, by private equity companies, or even hedge funds at times, and they don’t particularly care about the quality of the journalism,” said Margaret Sullivan, media columnist for The Washington Post and former public editor of The New York Times.

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Two New York Daily News employees leave the newspaper’s office after they were laid off, in New York, July 23, 2018. VOA

“What they’re there to do is to strip mine these properties and get as much profit from them as they can in the short term. And that is very bad for journalism. It’s very bad for journalists, because it often means round after round of job reductions, cutting costs in really draconian ways that hurt the news gathering process.”

Newspapers are not typically seen as a major profit-making venture. While they generate significant cash flow through advertising sales, that is offset by high production costs of personnel and the logistics of printing and delivery. Many are run by family foundations and other organizations that place some value on their public mission.

The strategy of many investment firms buying up newspaper chains has been to increase profits by slashing personnel costs.

In the broadcast world, the story is similar. Large companies have been buying up local stations and cutting costs by centralizing the production of much of the content they air. Most notorious among them is Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns 193 stations across the country, reaching up to 40% of the U.S. population.

Sinclair is known for enforcing a sharply conservative political slant on its broadcasts, providing “must-run” content that appears on every station the company owns. It regularly requires its stations to air commentary by Boris Epshteyn, a friend of President Donald Trump’s family and a former political consultant to the president.

Last year, a video went viral in which dozens of Sinclair anchors could be seen repeating, verbatim, a script that echoed Trump’s complaints about “fake news.”

Easing antitrust

Rules that formerly limited the ability of individual companies to own a dominant share of the media outlets in a specific market have been slowly eased over the years. Then, in 2017, the Federal Communications Commission gutted many of the remaining restrictions, opening the door to single companies dominating individual markets in both broadcast and print.

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Hundreds of old newspaper vending machines are shown in a vacant lot near the former offices of the Alaska Dispatch News in Anchorage, Alaska, Sept. 11, 2017. VOA

The resulting consolidation has been “disastrous for local communities,” said Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press, an organization that advocates for the decentralization of media. “We’ve gone from a more diverse localized media system to one increasingly controlled by a small handful of companies.”

 

“You used to get in your car in New York and drive to, I don’t know, Phoenix,” said Aaron. “Everywhere along the way, you would get incredibly different local voices, local flavors, local music. Now, you’re much more likely to get the same hit songs and Rush Limbaugh. So, we’ve lost some of that, you know, which I think has huge cultural value.”

The impact goes beyond culture, though, as Aaron and others have pointed out. It also has a direct impact on how Americans govern themselves.

“When sources of local and regional news dry up or go away,” Sullivan said, “there’s research that shows that the way people engage politically changes. They are going to be less likely to vote, they become more polarized, because for many years, the local newspaper might have been a way that people in that community were sharing a set of facts. Now, that’s gone or diminished.”

Last year, the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard Universityassembled a list of academic studies that tied the loss of local news sources to a decline in both the quantity and quality of citizens’ civic engagement.

Social media news

To fill the gap, Sullivan said, people turn to less objective sources of news, like Facebook, or politically partisan cable television programming.

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An iPhone displays the app for Facebook in New Orleans, Aug. 11, 2019. VOA

“It is really a very damaging thing for the way we talk to each other, the way we feel as a community and the way we deal with politics,” Sullivan said.

Identifying the disease and cataloging the symptoms is one thing. But finding a cure that will return the U.S. to a more Jeffersonian media model won’t be easy.

Sullivan argued that the growth of nonprofit news organizations is a hopeful sign that an alternative to corporatized media may be available. Groups such as Report for America provide funding so that young journalists can work in local media outlets, providing them important training while supplementing understaffed news outlets.

Some nonprofit publications like The Texas Tribune and Voice of San Diego have been able to make important contributions to their communities.

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But nonprofits can’t bridge the gap entirely, and Sullivan and others worry that the advertising-dependent business model of traditional journalism — particularly newspapers — has been so thoroughly broken by the rise of digital media that trying to rebuild it on the same design will be impossible.

That’s why Aaron and his organization want the federal government to get involved. Free Press argues for a return to tighter federal restrictions on media consolidation, including the breakup of existing conglomerates. They also call for federal investment through grants or tax incentives to support local news.

“If local journalism is important to making sure democracy survives, then we need the policies to actually match that need,” he said. “And right now, we don’t have them.” (VOA)