Gordon Smith, president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), provided the following prepared remarks for the 2014 Radio Show opening event. The Radio Show is produced by the Radio Advertising Bureau and the National Association of Broadcasters. Text provided by the Radio Show.
Thank you and welcome to the Radio Show.
I want to thank Kim and the entire Radio Show Steering Committee for their leadership in delivering, once again, a tremendous event that showcases the vibrancy of radio.
Let me also extend my gratitude to Erica Farber and the RAB for their great partnership in producing this wonderful event.
And I want to thank all of you for being here … it is critical that we come together to address the issues that impact radio’s future.
Five years ago, almost to this day, I stood before you as the new president and CEO of NAB, eager to learn more about the broadcasting business that I had long admired as a public servant.
I recall sitting before the hiring committee and being asked this question: “What does it mean to have the soul of a broadcaster?”
I remember answering the best I could, as someone who had experience delving into the policy issues that affected broadcasters, and as a television viewer and radio listener.
Of course, I knew about the amazing public service that broadcasters provided to communities … About the way they delivered the local news, emergency updates and unparalleled entertainment choices.
I knew about the way broadcasters mobilized to provide a lifeline to their communities during times of disaster … when a tornado or an earthquake struck …
But what I didn’t fully grasp at the time was their passion… dedication… and determination… to serve their communities … every … single … day.
I must not have answered that question too badly, since they still hired me for the job.
Five years later, my first impression of this business has expanded exponentially.
And many times since that first day on the job, I have stood on a stage and talked about broadcasters’ incredible service.
That question, “What does it mean to have the soul of a broadcaster?,” means so much more than I realized back then.
For deep in the soul of broadcasters is an unrelenting commitment to always be there for your communities … to be connected to your listeners … to inform them, to educate them … to help them.
It’s part of who you are.
And this deep-rooted commitment manifests itself in many ways … every day. You quickly respond to emergencies to keep your listeners safe and help them stay calm.
Like recently in the San Francisco area when radio stations jumped into action to report every detail of the earthquake that struck, and to take calls from listeners who were eager to share information.
KCBS went commercial-free for hours with news coverage, and sister station KPIX(TV) simulcast its coverage.
And just like these two stations, you are getting involved and raising awareness of the issues that impact your communities.
Like in Chicago when 15 radio stations partnered with the city and the mayor to launch an anti-violence campaign to promote safety in local communities and reduce gun violence.
And yes, you are there when the power goes out … when storms demolish homes … when other mediums are down, you are always on … but it’s incredibly important to also remember the many invaluable ways you are there for your listeners every day.
Your communities turn on the radio to find out what the weather is like before heading to work … to learn what’s happening in their part of the city … or to listen to the music that adds joy to their day.
They listen with open ears and open hearts when we encourage them to participate in coat and food drives, or to donate to a charity.
These past five years have been an incredible privilege for me …it is an honor making sure policymakers and the rest of America truly understand the many ways you give back.
Back in Washington, D.C., there are some challenges that could impact your ability to serve your local communities.
Broadcasters have demonstrated success in educating members of Congress about the consequences of a new performance tax, which would harm radio stations and put local jobs at risk.
As you well know, this is about artists and record labels insisting we pay them for the airplay they eagerly ask us to play.
There are now more than 230 bipartisan co-sponsors of the Local Radio Freedom Act in the House — a majority large enough to block any performance tax legislation.
Though we’ve been successful thus far, it doesn’t mean we can let down our guard.
The House and Senate has introduced legislation that aims to increase the rates that songwriters are paid when their music is played or streamed.
And we can expect the giant record labels to keep coming after radio as their business models continue to deteriorate.
So, we must remain ever vigilant and involved. We must continue to gain support for our anti-performance tax resolution. Our success depends on our unity, our engagement and our activism.
We’re also working to educate the Department of Justice as it reviews the consent decrees governing our friends at ASCAP and BMI. NAB and our industry’s music licensing committees filed comments to inform that process.
We noted that the consent decrees provide important protections against the inherently anti-competitive features of performance rights organizations’ licensing.
On the issue of streaming fees, NAB is getting ready to go head-to-head with the record labels at the Copyright Royalty Board.
The CRB resets the rate for the digital performance right in music every five years and the current rates must be reset in 2015.
We are working hard to convince the CRB that they should set the rate at a level that encourages broadcasters to stream — that can be a win for everyone who loves … makes … or plays music.
We are also ensuring your voices are heard at the FCC. Recently, the FCC recently asked for input on whether it should make radio stations upload your public files to a central data base at the commission.
TV stations already have to do this. It is still early in the process.
NAB has explained to the commission that it is likely to be much more difficult, especially for small radio stations, to upload and continually update the public file.
We will keep you informed as this continues to develop.
As your advocate in Washington, we’re doing all we can to ensure a bright future for radio.
But we are also stronger when we speak with a unified voice — as we so clearly demonstrated during our united front against a performance tax a few years ago.
You can help amplify our voices in Washington by joining us. There is much at stake for radio if we don’t work in unity.
Stop by NAB’s Membership booth in The Hive to become an NAB member, if you aren’t already.
We must also think about our future … what do we want to be five … 10 … 20 years from now?
Despite all the competition for consumers’ attention — from the Internet, personal listening devices … and other emerging technologies … radio’s brightest days are ahead.
We should be bullish about radio’s future. Why? … Because no other medium has what broadcasting has — its connection to local communities.
Our challenge is to now take broadcasters’ commitment to localism and to expand that to other platforms that will continue to build a strong future for radio.
To that end, we are continuing our support of the expansion of NextRadio, the only app currently providing listeners with a hybrid FM experience on their smartphones.
This technology is the result of leaders in the radio business and Sprint working together to provide listeners with a broadcast radio experience that is dependable in times of emergency and still provides the interactivity listeners seek.
We urge you to learn more about how your station can deliver the hybrid FM experience to your listeners through the NextRadio app.
We are also participating in the FCC’s AM revitalization proceeding, and through our technology arm, NAB Labs, we are leading the industry in testing the all-digital mode of iBiquity’s AM digital radio system.
We have now conducted field tests of this system at seven different stations and are conducting lab testing as well. The results are encouraging for AM, so stay tuned.
Let’s continue to expand our definition of what “radio” is and the ways we can continue to build on radio’s heritage of service.
New technologies spring up every day and they can reshape how consumers live and interact … but none of these technologies will ever have what radio has — signals that deliver the best, most reliable services and entertainment, free of charge, to every person … no matter where they are.
It has been a privilege to work with you and fight for your ability to be there for your communities every single day. I can now say five years later, I truly know what it means to have the soul of a broadcaster.
It is the soul of a public servant.