NABA Turns Up Radio Dial

Association adds focus to radio sector
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Michael McEwenThe author is director-general of the North American Broadcasters Association.

Radio has been slow to embrace the digital revolution, but it is upon us and now includes all the transitional issues that television faced and continues to deal with. The North American Broadcasters Association will help to define and facilitate the radio industry’s transition to a truly multiplatform and interactive world.

NABA is a nonprofit association of broadcasting organizations in Canada, Mexico and the United States committed to advancing the interests of broadcasters both in North America and internationally.

As part of the World Broadcasting Unions, NABA works with our sister unions (e.g., European Broadcasting Union, Asian Broadcasting Union) to share information, identify common interests and reach consensus on issues and technology that cross borders and have international implications. Our membership is made up of both private and public networks, station groups and pay and specialty services, as well as those vendors who supply services to the North American broadcast community.

Since its founding in 1972, NABA has been principally focused on television issues and has participated in some historic changes in the industry, including the introduction of electronic news gathering and the transition from analog to digital HD television. 

Despite this, many of our members also include radio operations or interests. Our membership is as follows, with an asterisk indicating radio interests):

Full Members: Bell Media*, CBC/Radio-Canada*, CBS Broadcasting Inc.*, DIRECTV, Inc., Disney|ABC Television Group*, Fox Entertainment Group Inc., Grupo Televisa S.A.*, NBC Universal, Time Warner Inc., TV Azteca S.A. de C.V.*, Univision Communications Inc.*

Associate Members: Emmis Communications*, National Association of Broadcasters*, NPR*, Public Broadcasting Service, Shaw Communications*

Affiliate Members: Ad-ID, Dolby Laboratories Inc., Ericsson Television Inc., Eutelsat America Corp., Evertz Microsystems, Harmonic Inc., HERE*, iBiquity Digital Corp.*, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Level 3, Numeris, SES, Via Sat Inc.

This group recognized that their technology and services operate in a tripartite radio market, a kind of North American Free Trade zone of broadcasting. To put it another way: If you are going to introduce HD Radio in the United States, you are not likely to have a different technology in Mexico or Canada.

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Late in 2013, this core group of radio interests proposed to the NABA board of directors that a standing committee be formed to focus on radio.

The board agreed; and over the past year, the committee has developed its mandate and work plan. NABA added new members Univision, Bell Media, Emmis, Rogers, Mexican radio station groups and important suppliers like iBiquity and HERE, a Nokia company. As I write, we are also in discussions with other station groups and networks to broaden participation. It is only by being inclusive that we can serve the interests of radio and the markets they serve.

While to dwell on the mandate would take too much time, a few points are important to note.

Our primary goals are to share best practices, understanding the common interest in all three countries and reflecting their views to the regulators, suppliers, business interests, and as appropriate to international forums and institutions.

Further goals are to focus on how radio remains competitive, relevant and operational in a transitional environment from one traditional transmission service to multi-platform delivered audio product; where investments are costly to realize these new services, and as a result, legacy equipment and operations languish for lack of resources or attention.

FUTURE OF RADIO & AUDIO SYMPOSIUM

Feb. 17–19, 2015

Remarks and Keynotes Include:
• Jeff Smulyan, CEO, Emmis
• Chris Boyce, Executive Director, Radio & Audio, English Services, CBC/Radio-Canada
• Paul Brenner, SVP, Chief Technology Officer, Emmis Communications and Vice-Chair, NABA-RC

Session 1: Future of Delivery — A Roundtable
(Moderated by Marty Garrison CTO, NPR)
• Confirmed panelists from CBC/Radio-Canada, Emmis, TuneIn, Global Radio UK

Session 2: Digital Radio: Where It’s at and How It Fits Into a Broadband World
(Moderated by David Layer, Senior Director, Advanced Engineering, NAB)
• Confirmed panelists from CBC/Radio-Canada, HERE, iBiquity.

Session 3: Radio as a First Responder: The Importance of Radio in Emergency Situations
(Moderated by Kym Geddes, News Director, Newstalk 1010 Toronto)
• Confirmed panelists from CRTC, Pelmorex, NAB, Ontario Paramedic Association, etc.

Session 4: “Local” — Radio’s Competitive Advantage
(Moderated by Paul Ski, President, Rogers Radio)
• Confirmed panelists from AccuRadio, CRTC and Edison Research.

Session 5: Revitalizing the AM Band — Keynote and Panel
(Moderated by Karl Lahm, Director of Radio Frequency, Univision Communications)
• Panelists include Garrison C. Cavell and (invited) FCC Chair Ajit Pai.

Session 6: The Next Generation of the Auto Dashboard and What It Means for Radio
(Moderated by Julie McCambley, Director Radio Production CBC/Radio Canada)
• Potential panelists from Strategy Analytics, GM, iBiquity and Pandora

RESPONDING TO THE MANDATE

The committee, under the leadership of its Chair Julie McCambley (director, production services, CBC/Radio-Canada) and Vice-Chair Paul Brenner (senior vice president and CTO, Emmis), decided that an honest public discussion should be in order to ensure that the committee was dealing with the right agenda and that the North American radio community would buy into that agenda.

The result was the announcement of a Future of Radio & Audio Symposium. This will be a part of NABA’s Annual General Meeting Event hosted by CBC/Radio Canada from Feb. 17–19, 2015, with the symposium held on the 19th at the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio, 250 Front Street West in downtown Toronto.

In many ways, the symposium agenda has (and will) become the ongoing agenda for the Radio Committee too, and will mark the genesis for greater industry consensus on the issues and milestones for deliverables over the next few years. See the sidebar for symposium sessions.

These issues are front and center to a successful transition from analog radio to an interactive multiplatform set of services. They require both detailed business planning and regulatory support, and they will define the radio discussion for the next few years at least.

The event is open to NABA members and non-members alike. Our interest is to create a forum for dialogue, leading to positive action in order to maintain radio as a core value for listeners throughout the broad North American market.

We hope those in radio and those who support radio with services will join us Feb. 19 in Toronto and make this first North American Symposium a defining moment in radio history.

If you would like to know more about NABA, its standing committees including the Radio Committee, and the Symposium agenda, please contact Senior Coordinator Jason Paris at jparis@nabanet.com. To register for the Symposium, visit http://tinyurl.com/mmfx5wq and use keyword “Transmissions2015.”

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