EAS, Localism Among Pilot’s D.C. Event Highlights
Broadcast technology may be evolving constantly,
but radio and television have a consistent goal of public service. That was a message to policymakers of a “Broadcast Innovations” event on Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington Wednesday, produced by Pilot, the recently renamed tech arm of the National Association of Broadcasters.
“Broadcasters are true public servants,” said
emcee and News4 anchor Jim Handly, opening the program held at the Newseum’s
Knight Center. “I’m proud to call myself a broadcaster.”
NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith then stepped up to the podium, recalling
his time on the Senate Commerce Committee and his early introductions to the
world of telecommunications. Smith said officials from mobile companies frequently dropped
by with new and innovative devices and recalled being encouraged by then-Major
Leader Tom DeLay to rely heavily on his BlackBerry. However, 9/11 and the 2011
earthquake both demonstrated the fragility of mobile networks. He realized
that “broadcast transmission, though discovered long ago ... was the lifeline
of the American people.”
When Smith was home in Oregon and wished to address his constituents, he too turned to local
television and radio to get his message out. “Everyone wants our content. Everyone wants
our spectrum,” he said of broadcasters. “But no one else can do what we do:
localism, live and free.”
presentation about the Olympics, Handly reported that 173 million Americans
watched the games on broadcast television. NAB Executive Vice President and
Chief Technology Officer Sam Matheny then sat down with NBCUniversal’s Glen
Reitmeier to discuss how the broadcaster handled Olympics coverage.
During a panel called “The New Broadcasters,” NextRadio
President Paul Brenner told moderator Diana Marszalek that the NextRadio app
and FM chip technology epitomize the broadcaster’s “live, local and free”
motto. He emphasized its utility during disasters, getting out important
information and distributing emergency alerts. Brenner said an October update to
NextRadio will marry the app more closely with emergency alerting capabilities.
He also said the FM chip provides a platform that can substitute for streaming
at smaller stations that can no longer afford new Coyright
Royalty Board rates.
Asked what he would want lawmakers to take away from the presentation,
Brenner said those “inside the Beltway” need to think about the “legacy uses of
broadcast technology” and also make it available to people.
Next up was Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who was introduced by Smith as a
former broadcaster who “has forgotten more about broadcasting than I’ll ever
know.” Walden assured attendees that he is regular contact with FCC Chairman
Tom Wheeler regarding the spectrum repack and says he consistently advocates to
mitigate the auction’s negative impact on broadcasters. He also said that he
uses NewsOn — an app introduced in “The New Broadcasters” panel — to stay in
touch with those at home, and he praised Jeff Smulyan’s efforts at Emmis with
NextRadio and the FM chip. He took note that broadcast innovations touted at
the conference were gaining traction without a federal mandate.
Walden offered this word of encouragement to broadcasters: “You
all were both wireless and digital before it was really popular. You know how
to do this.”
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) offered
remarks, in which he highlighted the importance of local broadcasters and the
NAB to the people of the state.
During a final panel
titled “The Future of Localism,” CBS Radio Philadelphia’s Steve Butler
discussed how stations in his cluster employ HD Radio multicasts to cover “hyper-local:
news, features and events that might otherwise slip through the cracks. He
cited a “Popecast” HD2 channel that broadcast during Pope Francis’ visit to
Philadelphia as a prime example of how this technology can be utilized, noting
that he was able to sell the channel to five advertisers, generating additional
revenue with no extra cost. He also said the modern radio reporter knows that
covering a story means shooting video, creating a podcast, writing an article
The ATSC 3.0 standard was a theme throughout
the event, with repeated emphasis put on the necessity of its FCC approval. After
the panels and remarks concluded, attendees could get up-close-and-personal
with some of the technology highlighted by the panelists including AWARN and
A reception offered access to one of the Newseum’s roof decks, which provided great views of the city — and a site for a
drone demonstration, normally prohibited in the district. The NAB was granted
special permission from the FAA to fly drones in a cage.
In addition to the demos, attendees had the opportunity for a photo and
meet-and-greet with eight-time Olympic gold medalist Allison Schmitt, who spoke
with Handly about her swimming career, Olympic memories and her passion for
helping those with mental illness.
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