The National Religious Broadcasters association worries about a “rampage of increasing federal power over the lives of Americans, including communications platforms.”
If You Go
What: NRB 2011 Convention & Exposition
Where: Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center
When: Feb. 26–March 1
Who: Christian communicators including program producers, authors, pastors, engineers, directors and vendors. Includes radio, TV, visual media, church media, Internet.
How Much: $625 for members, $350 for spouses and first-time attendees, $725 for others; daily rates and student/faculty registrations available That’s the phrasing of Senior Vice President and General Counsel Craig Parshall, who spoke to Radio World on the cusp of the organization’s 2011 annual convention in Nashville, which starts Feb. 26.
NRB was pleased with the outcome of the recent elections, he said, because voters appeared to want change in the federal government. “The American people voted in the mid-term elections to rethink this movement, really return power and control back to the states, local government and to the people.”
Prior to Republicans taking the House of Representatives, Parshall said, “It seemed that the mood in Washington — in that Democrat House, Democrat Senate and the Obama White House — was that if there was the hint of a problem out there, that we need to, number one, subsidize the problem, and number two, federalize it with regulations and reach out with federal power over that problem.”
NRB has focused its concerns particularly on the Federal Communications Commission under Chairman Julius Genachowski. Parshall said the FCC is an agency, not a lawmaking body.
“They’re to implement and administrate the law created and delegated by Congress. And so I think Congress is going to take some of this back, and they’re going to stand in the way of the FCC’s ambition.”
Craig Parshall. ‘We don’t want to allow the federal government to place unreasonable restrictions on existing media organizations that are already floundering.’ Parshall cited examples of what he considers potential egregious FCC overreaching. One is the Future of Media proceeding, which included a 2010 panel discussion in which Parshall took part.
“That proceeding is trying to wrangle the issue of what they [the FCC] perceive to be declining journalistic standards in the media. … What was the federal government doing analyzing the performance of the media? It ought to be the other way around; the media was created in freedom of the press, and the First Amendment was created so that the media and the press could be free enough to review the actions of the government. Not vice versa.”
Another area of jurisdictional concern to NRB is the FCC’s attempt to regulate the Internet through its network neutrality proceedings.
“We’re very supportive of the movement of a number of folks on Capitol Hill, to hold hearings and to circumscribe the ability of the FCC to regulate” in this arena.
Parshall describes an “elephant in the room” in the network neutrality discussions.
“Whether it’s Microsoft or AT&T or Google, all the players in this Internet debate are talking about wanting to retain their free-market ability to function without government regulation; and we can sympathize with that. But no one, including the FCC, seems to be talking seriously about the right of consumers and the American citizenry to use these platforms on the Internet, Web-based platforms, for freedom of viewpoint.”
The commission’s National Broadband Plan, which includes capturing some spectrum now licensed to broadcasters, is also on NRB’s radar screen.
Key Events Saturday
“Social Media Strategies” — Speakers include Mark Ramsey of Mark Ramsey Media and Rey Mena of Emmis Interactive
Evening General Session — Dr. Frank Wright, NRB President & CEO; Voddie Baucham of Voddie Baucham Ministries; Jay Sekulow of American Center for Law and Justice; Nicole C. Mullen of Word Records
Radio Reception — Among the award winners: KCBI is NRB Major-Market Radio Station of the Year; Janet Parshall is NRB Air Personality of the Year in the talk format; “Time to Revive With Kyle Martin” receives the NRB Radio Genesis Award
Worship Service — With James MacDonald of “Walk in the Word”
“Connecting With Audiences in an Age of Distraction” — A conversation about movies, entertainment and the future of media; speakers include Michael Flaherty, president of Walden Media.
Women’s Breakfast — Gracia Burnham of the Martin & Gracia Burnham Foundation; Natalie Grant of Curb Records
International Luncheon — NRB has not revealed the name of the speaker but says he “serves in a culture where Christians have long been persecuted, some losing their lives for their faith in Jesus Christ. Yet this man has not shrunk away from proclaiming God’s truth using Christian radio.”
Evening General Session — With Ravi Zacharias of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries
Public Policy Debate — The theme is the Christian church’s response to the gay rights movement. With Janet Parshall, Rev. Dr. Cindi Love of gay rights organization Soulforce and Joe Dallas of Genesis Biblical Counseling.
Banquet — With Chuck Swindoll of Insight for Living, and Denver & the Mile High Orchestra “They still haven’t given clarification on that,” said Parshall. “So we’re going to err on the side of caution. Not that we’re implying bad faith on the part of the FCC in how they’re going to do this; we simply are very concerned that whatever mechanism they use, an auction and so forth, we’re concerned that it not be directly or indirectly coercive, sort of arm-twisting broadcasters, particularly TV broadcasters, to give up spectrum — even if not required to, simply to make it too difficult not to.”
In areas of regulation such as encouraging media diversity or easing cross-ownership rules, Parshall describes the NRB’s stance as nuanced. He paraphrased NRB President/CEO Dr. Frank Wright testifying at an FCC field hearing several years ago.
“We have great sympathy to providing opportunity to small local media, and small local broadcasters in particular, because a lot of our members and a lot of folks in Christian broadcasting qualify for that category; we want to make sure they have every opportunity to flourish. And we see problems with monopolies, obviously.
“On the other hand, [we oppose] too tight a limit on cross-ownership and things like this, particularly in … a downturn economy, where advertising is still a struggle for commercial radio and television, and [given that] technology is changing so quickly on all forms of communication platforms.
“Studies … tell us that people are spending less time getting their news and information on TV, radio and newspapers, over the last five years at least, and almost doubling the time they’re spending on the Internet getting their news and information.
“We don’t want to allow the federal government to place unreasonable restrictions on existing media organizations that are already floundering. It’s got to be a delicate balance.”
That said, Parshall issued a qualifier.
“There are some who want to change media ownership rules to gerrymander a result in terms of changing the kind of content that comes out of, particularly, talk radio.” If the goal was to silence conservative talk radio and expand liberal talk radio, he said, NRB would object.
Exhibit Sampling Average attendance of recent past NRB conventions is 4,500.
The exhibit hall averages 130,000 square feet and some 200 vendors; the following is just a sampling of companies of interest to our readers. For the full list see nrbconvention.org.
NRB exhibits are Sunday noon to 5 p.m.; Monday 10 to 5 p.m.; and Tuesday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
American Family Radio
Anserfone Call Centers
Broadcast Software International
Campus Crusade for Christ
Electronics Research Inc.
Glorystar Satellite Systems
Ka You Communications
LeSea Broadcasting Linear Industries
Myers Information Systems
Next Wave Radio Network
RF Specialties Group
RRsat Global Communications Network
SPX Communication Technology
WorldCast Systems Discussion about the Fairness Doctrine is never far from NRB’s mind. The organization in late January sent an open letter to President Obama asking him to publicly oppose what it calls “proposals to censor free speech.” NRB commended Obama for his “dignified and presidential” remarks in Tucson, Ariz., after the shootings there, but also said NRB “expects the battle to define ‘civil discourse’ to ramp up in coming months, bringing with it a renewed effort to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.” It said the doctrine could be brought back with just three FCC commissioners’ votes.
One area in which NRB agrees with the FCC is enforcement of indecency standards for broadcasters.
“The current rules that are being enforced by the FCC are reasonable, they are constitutional, they have a legal authority, and they’re not arbitrary and capricious. These [rules] are about as clear as you can get on this issue, and I think they’ve been enforced with an even hand.
“We’re glad that the current administration of the FCC is continuing those same rules that were inaugurated under the Kevin Martin administration.”
Regarding whether broadcasters should be obliged to pay rights fees to performers, Parshall stated: “We’re shoulder to shoulder with NAB on opposing performance rights; we have been just as vehement and just as interested in opposing it as NAB has been, and have been working with them and alongside of them to oppose it.”
Another area of common interest with the National Association of Broadcasters is FM radio reception in cell phones and other mobile devices. Parshall said it has been a long-term goal of NRB President Frank Wright “that radio needs to have a footprint in the wireless handheld platforms. And clearly, that’s where a lot of people are saying that the future of communications is: in the hands of the people who are going to hold onto these wireless handheld devices. And why not make sure that radio isn’t one of the applications on those cell phones?”