“Observations” Chronicles Life in Nevada
     

Nevada Broadcasters Association CEO Bob Fisher
Almost two decades years ago, Bob Fisher, the CEO of the Nevada Broadcasters Association (the “other” NBA), was sitting around a dinner table with his board of directors during a trip to Washington for an NAB State Leadership Conference.

“As the evening progressed and the ‘spirits’ seemed to move them, one of the Las Vegas radio guys had an idea,” said Fisher.

“He said I ought to have my own radio show. And a second radio guy said the same thing, and then a third guy, Mike Ginsburg, offered a challenge. He said to the other radio broadcasters from Nevada, ‘If you put the show on the air, so will I.’ Eighteen years later, after over 900 radio shows, we’re still on the air!”

Thus began the weekly Nevada Broadcasters Association public service program “Observations,” still hosted and produced by Fisher and airing on 35 radio stations throughout the state. There are also five network TV stations in Reno carrying the nonprofit talk program in northern Nevada. (See sidebar.)

IN THE BEGINNING
An early inspiration for Fisher’s love of radio was Minneapolis legacy station WCCO(AM), with its emphasis on public service, personalities, sports and farm reports.

“When I was growing up, I used to set up a card table and our Victrola in our den,” said Fisher, 66. “I would pretend I was doing a radio show, giving the weather, reading the news and talking about the Minnesota Twins. I guess I always wanted to be an entertainer, and decades later, I’m doing a real show.”

Fisher says that WCCO and the association have a characteristic in common: public service.

“We take our role with the Emergency Alert System seriously,” said Fisher. “And for 10 years I was the state coordinator and chairman of Nevada Amber Alert. In a lot of communities, and even in Las Vegas, nonprofit organizations want their local radio and TV personalities to serve as their emcees. Public service is part of our fabric.”

“Observations” covers many topics of interest to Nevadans, including but not limited to, healthcare, gambling, politics, crime and showbiz. On some occasions, these subjects overlap. Since 90 percent of the shows are produced in one of America’s entertainment capitals, Las Vegas, there’s no shortage of celebrities willing to drop by for a chat with Fisher.

“The remaining 10 percent of the shows are recorded in Reno at the facilities of news/talk KOH(AM),” said Fisher. “Reno affords access to many state political leaders working in Carson City, the capital, who might not be available otherwise. The NBA is the only state broadcasters association to have a state-of-the-art radio studio in its office suite.”

GETTING TO KNOW YOU
Fisher believes the key to any interview is soliciting personal stories from his subjects, something beyond what is stated in press releases.

“I did an interview with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid,” said Fisher. “He opened up and talked about the suicide of his father and the impact that had on his life. You have to break through and get people to trust you. You do it by listening to what they are saying, not working with a script. I have never done an interview over the phone. I do them all in-studio because it gives me the opportunity to connect and listen better.”

Gary L. Campbell is the director of radio production for “Observations,” and he can attest to the fact that not all the shows are serious.

“I recall Bob trying to sing along with Mary Wilson from the Supremes on one show,” he said. “Now that was pretty funny.”

Over the years, Fisher has honed his interview style.

The TV version

Radio World: How did the TV show come to be added to the radio show?

Bob Fisher: Ten years ago, prior to developing the TV version of “Observations,” all Reno television stations were asked to approve of the program, and they were given the choice on whether or not to air it. The focus would be entirely directed towards northern Nevada. This past January we celebrated our 500th show with special guest Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval.

RW: Is the radio show just the audio from the TV version?

Fisher: No. Separate entities and separate guests. Is there crossover sometimes? Yes.

RW: How is the TV show distributed?

Fisher: The television show is produced at the KRXI/KAME(TV) studios in Reno. Tapes are edited there and distributed to the ABC, CBS and CW affiliates.

RW: Is it supplied free of charge to the stations?

Fisher: Both radio and television shows are supplied free of charge to the stations. It is a membership benefit [of the NBA] and speaks volumes about public service in the state of Nevada. There is no advertising, although each participating station is encouraged to promote the show.

RW: Do you have some idea what it costs to produce the TV version?

Fisher: I have no idea of the budget for the show. The production staff at KRXI/KAME has always cared very much about the look and the quality of the program. They have absorbed all salaries and costs, including the set and lighting, production, editing and distribution. The NBA subsidizes closed captioning ($12,000 per year) and absorbs the cost of our production director, who is a full-time employee of the NBA and has other responsibilities in addition to “Observations.” My time spent on producing and hosting these two shows is part of my job description.

“I realize that the people are not tuning in to hear me,” Fisher said. “They want to hear from the guests. Also, over the 18 years I’ve been doing this, I’m proud that I’ve never gone ‘negative.’ I’d rather talk about the things that bring us together.”

NOT ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS
While Fisher receives a salary as CEO of the Nevada Broadcasters Association, he doesn’t take a dime for hosting and producing the radio or TV version of “Observations.” These are public service programs, and the stations donate their airtime.

The radio show is distributed online via Hightail (www.hightail.com). Be­cause “Observations” is syndicated, it runs on different days and at different times in each market.

“I lobby in Carson City, and I’m amazed at the number of people who hear the show,” said Fisher. “I bumped into someone who recognized me and said, ‘I listen to your show every week, but I don’t agree with anything you say.’ As recently as two weeks ago, we did a show about cancer awareness, and I had two survivors of the disease on with me. I got a lovely email from one of these guests saying that someone who heard her on the show wanted to get involved and is now a volunteer. Everyone who does public service knows there will always be a response.”

Fisher believes in the power of radio.

“People have talked about the death of radio, but that’s never going to happen. We have a lot of people on the show that would otherwise probably never be heard in our smaller markets. People really get their information from radio; it’s local, and it ain’t no dinosaur.”

For information on “Observations,” including stations and times, visit www.nevadabroadcasters.org/observations. Recent shows can also be downloaded as podcasts from iTunes. The program is streamed around the world.

Ken Deutsch has visited Las Vegas several times for NAB Shows. On each of these occasions, he says, he has found his way to a casino and wagered as much as $15, a sum he considers a charitable donation to the casino owners.


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