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Technology Policy, Free Trade and the DTV Transition Focus of the 2009 CEA Washington Forum

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CEA Digital Patriots Dinner Honors Congressional Leaders Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Gregory Meeks (D-NY)

Technology policy in the new Administration, free trade and the final countdown to the digital television (DTV) transition were the major themes at the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) Washington Forum, which concluded yesterday in Washington, DC. CEA’s Washington Forum, which focused on critical issues facing the technology industry, featured the fifth annual Digital Patriots Awards Dinner, which recognized Representative Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY), for their support in advancing technology innovation.

Representative Roy Blunt and Representative Gregory Meeks were honored at the Digital Patriots Dinner on Wednesday evening, for their support of pro-innovation policies as well as their participation in CEA’s “America Wins with Trade” grassroots tour. Rep. Blunt has served in Congress since 1997 and has been a strong advocate for both free trade and digital television. CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro said, “We honor Rep. Blunt for reaching across the aisle to build bi-partisan support for the Columbia Free Trade Agreement and for his leadership on DTV.”

While accepting his award Rep. Blunt recognized his colleague, Rep. Meeks for his tireless fight for free trade. Acknowledging the importance of a strong competitive marketplace, Rep. Blunt remarked, “America is the most competitive market in the world. American businesses focus on results, government focuses on spending priorities. The government should take a lesson from businesses in this regard.”

Representative Gregory Meeks delivered a passionate acceptance speech that addressed the importance of consumer technology in improving people’s lives, and stressed the need for passage of pending free trade agreements with Panama and Columbia. Meeks stated, “The CE industry is leading the U.S. in competitiveness. No matter where you come from, whether you are rich or poor, CE levels the playing field for all people. Your innovation makes the world a better place.”

Meeks then expounded on the importance of free trade. “You understand that trade is integrally tied to our national interest and the opportunity to create a better life for our children,” he said. “There are two major relationships between countries: trade and war. You have to make a choice. I like trade better, that is my choice.”

Other events at the CEA Washington Forum included a luncheon keynote address on Wednesday afternoon from David Plouffe, campaign manager, Obama for America. Plouffe discussed the vital role technology played in Barack Obama’s grassroots presidential campaign and will continue to play in his presidency. Plouffe credited a state-of-the art Internet presence, in part, to the success of Obama’s campaign. “Our campaign was organized on-line, where we tried to create a home,” said Plouffe. “We could not win without the historical productivity of the people; we built a web presence that became a tool for the people.” Plouffe went into great detail on the role technology played in allowing Obama’s campaign to be “real-time” with supporters and enabled the campaign to be vibrant.

Thursday morning’s session, “The DTV Transition – The Final Countdown (And This Time We Mean It),” highlighted the opportunities and challenges of the upcoming June 12 DTV transition. The session was moderated by Rob Pegoraro of The Washington Post and included panelists Mary Lou Kenny, NTIA; Bill Lake, FCC and Jason Oxman, CEA. The panelists stressed that their organizations are focused on educating those Americans who still utilize over-the-air broadcast, to ensure all consumers receive the necessary information for a successful transition. Consumer awareness of the DTV transition has reached 97 percent of U.S. households. CEA’s Oxman pointed to the success of the DTV Transition Coalition’s comprehensive public awareness campaign, which has lead to wide consumer awareness of the transition date, and noted the necessary steps that lay ahead to ensure all are prepared after the transition.

The final event at the CEA Washington Forum featured a luncheon keynote by political pundits Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala. Carlson, an MSNBC senior political correspondent, started things off with his view of President Obama, praising him for some of his political appointments as smart decision making. Begala, a CNN political analyst, talked about the hope President Obama has inspired in Americans, as the number of people who believe our country is moving in the right direction has dramatically increased since his election. “For all of Obama’s gifts though, it is us and our system that put him there and that should make us feel good about our country and its prospects,” Begala said. Both praised the technology industry for making products that benefit our lives and our economy.

About CEA:
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is the preeminent trade association promoting growth in the $172 billion U.S. consumer electronics industry. More than 2,200 companies enjoy the benefits of CEA membership, including legislative advocacy, market research, technical training and education, industry promotion and the fostering of business and strategic relationships. CEA also sponsors and manages the International CES — Where Entertainment, Technology and Business Converge. All profits from CES are reinvested into CEA’s industry services.

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