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Broadcast Finds Itself in a “Natural State”

Arkansas Broadcasters Association turns 70; we checked in with its leadership

The Arkansas Broadcasters Association is noting its 70th anniversary this year.

“ABA began in 1949 as the trade association for broadcasters in Arkansas focused on providing broadcasters with a lobbying voice, while also providing them with technical and regulatory support and continuous professional enrichment opportunities,” it announced. “Over the years, ABA has been successful at helping Natural State broadcasters stay ahead of the ever evolving and changing landscape of broadcast media.”

The association will note the anniversary at its ARKCON event in July.

What are broadcasters talking about in Arkansas these days? We asked Executive Director Luke Story and ABA Board President Ali King-Sugg, owner/GM of Red River Radio Inc. of Heber Springs, where she is also a morning air personality.

Radio World: As the ABA celebrates its anniversary, what is the business climate like for broadcasters, and radio in particular, in Arkansas these days?

Ali King-Sugg: Because Arkansas is mostly rural, I think that many Arkansans look to local radio as their first resource for what is going on in their communities. Because of that radio is thriving!  

With my family being in the radio business for over 40 years, I’ve gotten to learn from some of the best broadcasters in Arkansas on how to keep radio local and the importance of it. If you do that, your community will support you back.

Luke Story
Luke Story

[Community Broadcaster: Of Service]

Luke Story: When I started this job a little over a year ago, I launched a statewide member tour with the goal of visiting as many members as I could and glean from them how their needs have changed and what the association could do better to serve them. What the tour has taught me is more than ever, our industry is vibrant, vital and strong, but we must work collectively to address old, new and emerging challenges.

You ask specifically about radio but I think it’s important to recognize that more so than ever before, radio and TV are siblings in media. Radio does face the steep challenge of adapting to new digital technology, but together we will get there.

I often compare today’s challenges facing radio to the challenges it faced in the late ’40s-early ’50s, with the advent of television and TV becoming the household influential medium. A lot of people wrote radio off then, but 60-plus years later it still remains a powerful marketing tool for advertisers, a “go to” place for new and popular music and an economic growth engine for our communities and state. Over 18,000 Arkansas jobs created by local radio and TV.  

RW: What important issues are front of mind right now for your radio members?

King-Sugg: With all the new technology of smart speakers, podcasts and dashboards, a big issue will be figuring out how to integrate digital and turn it into a revenue generator.  And as broadcasters we are always worried about a performance tax.

[KWVA Customizes Workflow to Fit Students’ Needs]

Story: Issues that are front of mind for all members, radio and TV, are similar to other industries in the state. We are working hard to find quality sales people. Our industry is addressing a shortage of engineers, both RF and IT/digital. And we continue to navigate the evolving digital landscape.

RW: There’s discussion at the FCC about removing ownership subcaps for radio. What is ABA’s stance on this?

Story: We haven’t formally discussed this within the association.

Ali King-Sugg
Ali King-Sugg

RW: What other major lobbying concerns are you dealing with at the national or state level right now?

King-Sugg: On the national level, our main concern is a performance tax that would hurt local radio and potentially threaten local jobs. On the state level, we are very active and involved especially with any new law that would weaken the Freedom of Information Act. Others that have come up in this year’s session are advertising for medical marijuana.  

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Story: Right now, medical marijuana advertising regulations is a hot topic and a very complex one at that. We continue to focus on any and all FOIA exemption-related legislation. At the national level, I work closely with my counterparts across the country and at the National Association of Broadcasters to address radio topics, such as the Local Radio Freedom Act, unlocking the FM chip in wireless phones, performance royalties and consent decrees and ownership regulations. We also address TV topics, such as the next generation of broadcast television, the expiration of STELA and open negotiations with retransmission consent.

RW: How many members does the association have; how does that compare to years past?

Story: We represent 230 members, both radio and TV, across the Natural State. We have worked hard to improve and grow our membership base and have succeeded in membership growth over the last year plus.

RW: Anything else we should know?

Story: In Arkansas, we are fortunate to have great broadcasters that show others what we like to call “Broadcasting Naturally.” Arkansas broadcasters continue to serve their local communities and provide relevant news, weather, sports and emergency information in time of need in all 75 counties of the state.

Something else we are proud of is the equally important community service role broadcasters play. We raise money and support for dozens of community organizations helping them amplify their needs and good work. That’s part of the mission of broadcasting: to strengthen the communities we serve. Last year, broadcasters raised more than $30 million in charitable contributions to help Arkansans in need.  

ARKCON is scheduled for July 18 and 19. For information visit www.arkbroadcasters.org.

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