NASBA gets down to business in DC


NASBAAt the National Alliance of State Broadcasters Associations (NASBA) meetings on 2/24, RBR-TVBR was able to speak to numerous SBA leaders and others from the industry in DC during their annual event at the National Press Club, and at the mixer 2/23 this year at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. On the 24th, they held an EAS Summit, Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan spoke about NextRadio, the NAB addressed the crowd and more. Here’s a compendium of info and quotes we gleaned from broadcast associations across the nation and Puerto Rico:

Karole White, CEO, Michigan Association of Broadcasters: “One of the important things that we’ve discussed at the NASBA meeting is the changing dynamics of our own organizations, the new technologies that are being used by our members and the demographics of our audience—that is changing—and how we can best help our members meet these new challenges. We feel that our organizations and our broadcasters are in perfect position to offer all of the new technologies that come down. We just have to make certain that the general public understands that the hub for all new technology is radio and television.”

Paul Rotella

Paul Rotella, New Jersey Broadcasters Association (NJBA) CEO: “There are forces out there, like Pandora lobbyists for the OEMs, in Detroit that are competing for audio space in the dash. They’re irrepressible. They do have a foothold. We must start to focus on having the same ideological and marketing presence in Detroit with the OEMs that they do to maintain our supremacy. Not our relevance—because no question about it—we are the only relevant media when it comes to learning about local information that people need to know, especially when they’re driving in the car and hazardous weather and for Amber Alerts. We must maintain our supremacy by making sure that the OEMs recognize what it is that we do so well, and no one can compete with us. But in a vacuum when there’s nobody else there to argue for our side—to advocate our position—of course you’re going to have other entities there that are showing up to take our place. We must show up, we must be there. DASH is the most important event that anyone advocating for the radio industry should attend. It’s one of the most important events that I’ve ever been to—it’s very enlightening.”

NJBA is having a board meeting in DC as well, on 2/25. Rotella added, “I’m very fortunate that I have one of the most insightful and supportive board of directors, probably in the entire country. I’m very proud of the members that I represent, but I’m more proud and grateful for the leadership provided by my board, and for their constant support.”

Jose Ribas Dominicci, Executive Director, Puerto Rico Radio Broadcasters Association, tells RBR-TVBR this is the 24th NSABA meeting he has been to: “We’re here because we need to know where we’re going and what’s coming up in the 21st Century for radio. We need to know and that’s why we’re here. On eof the main problems that we face is the revitalization of the AM band. We’re trying hard to know what’s on the FCC’s mind so we can work with them. There are so many things they can do, but until now everybody was walking, not running. You know, the AM band does not fit into the 21st Century industry. There is too much interference from electronics and too much interference at night—especially in Puerto Rico, from powerful South American stations. I told my group yesterday that we have a very short memory. Many broadcasters don’t really understand or give consideration to the thought of revitalization of the AM band. Of course, television is their main source of income. But radio is there. And I told them the reason why we have a short memory is that the entire broadcasting industry started in the 1920s when the AM band started. And we ought to give something back to the AM band because it has given us a lot. We are where we are because of the AM band.”

Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan, on his discussion about NextRadio: “We’re talking about continued industry support, making sure stations are interactive; making sure people talk to their congressmen, the FCC, and work with the NAB in rolling this out.”

Sharon Tinsley

Sharon Tinsley, President, Alabama Broadcasters Association: “This is a really important opportunity for all of our counterparts at the state broadcaster associations to come together. We talk about the issues that are most impactful up on the Hill; what’s going on at the FCC; and a great deal also about the management of our associations and meeting our members’ needs. At the end of the day, we’re here to serve them. That includes what we do in terms of advocating on their behalf, but also providing training and continuing education, legal resources, whatever it happens to be. So when we come together like this and share ideas, no one has to re-invent the wheel, because we get such great thoughts from each other. Everybody goes home with something new that they can take back and institute right away—and make a difference in our membership.”

On NextRadio/getting FM chips into cell phones, Tinsley says it is going to be really important for our industry: “Everybody is walking around with a phone in their pocket or purse and in 1965, people walked around with transistor radios. We have this gap of time, because there wasn’t that device, like a radio, to have with you—just our walking around. In Alabama, we drive our cars everywhere, but so much of our population is a commuting population—on foot, busses, trains, etc. So now, to put the radio in their pocket or purse so they can get instant information—emergency information especially—is critical. I don’t know if we’re more aware of what’s happening around the world in terms of weather crises, fires, flooding or whatever, but it just seems that there’s more of it. And the fact that somebody can be instantly alerted to that, stop wherever they are and get that information is critical. This is an important step in getting there. The NextRadio app, which relies on that FM chip in the radio, helps continue to make radio relevant for people. We are used to having information at our fingertips, and what better way to have that radio in your phone. The app itself gives you so much rich data about the music that you’re listening to, or restaurants in the vicinity where you are, the couponing that it allows…all that at your fingertips.”

She also talked about another specific from their meetings: “One of the things we did today, along the association management line, was to have somebody come in from a group that works with associations at the national level to help us all think about what it is we’re doing and the ways that we’re communicating with our membership. We have a wide range of age groups within our memberships. We’ve got Boomers, X-ers and Y’s. We all know that those people don’t think the same or react the same, they don’t want their information given in the same manner. They have different priorities and they’re at different places in their careers. So today we spent some time thinking about those concerns as applied to our own memberships…and how it is that we provide meetings, information and outreach. What are we doing to engage those younger people, not only in our associations, but also helping to provide a sense of community in that overall group. Broadcasting is a community and we want to instill that in them. They might be in their first or second job. We all know it gets in your blood. They might not know they’ve been afflicted with this broadcasting disease yet, but you can’t shake it, and we want them to know that here’s a community of people that feel the same way about this great industry—and we want to get them involved, engaged and active…whether it’s within their association, active in advocating, as young mentors for college-age students or high school age students. So we want them to know we’re all a community and we all work together.”

EAS forum
The EAS Summit

Matthew Straeb, EVP/Global Security Systems, one of the NASBA sponsors: “We heard an update on the FEMA IPAWS public early warning system, wireless emergency alerts and what’s going on with that. It’s working in some states and some states are using it, but for others, the problems have not been fixed 100%. Broadcasting is still a major part of the alert warning system. We’re continuing to see a lot more interest from state, local and county emergency managers to sign up and be able to send those emergency alerts—not just for wireless, but also for the broadcast EAS infrastructure.”

We asked Justin Sasso, Colorado Broadcasters Association CEO, about how broadcasters in his state are approaching the possibility of accepting advertising for marijuana, now that it’s legal in that state: “We don’t see it as a possibility right now because we are federally-licensed broadcasters. We answer to the FCC. So the issue becomes, when everything is said and done, no matter what the state of Colorado has done, we still answer to the FCC for our licenses. And the biggest concern—this has been something we’ve visited with CBA’s legal counsel at Pillsbury, Dick Zaragoza and at our board meetings—and the reality of the situation is we’re in uncharted waters. We’re one of the two states right now that has legalized marijuana in a non-medical capacity. You can come into the state of Colorado as a visitor, you can buy marijuana and use it for recreational purposes. There are a lot of advertising dollars available, but all it takes is one complaint against a broadcaster for airing a message that someone finds offensive, even if it’s legal. The same thing could happen if you advertise for an adult bookstore. The concern becomes that if the Feds don’t have any rules that say you can’t advertise adult bookstores, there’s obviously common-sense programming that you wouldn’t put that kind of material in children’s programming, but there’s no federal law against it. So if a broadcaster advertises a marijuana shop up the street, come in, enjoy it recreationally, etc., and that upsets a listener and they file a complaint with the FCC, here’s the ramification–it may not affect you that day, it may not affect you for the next year or two, until it’s time for license renewal time.”

Is he looking for express permission from the FCC to air the ads first? “I think it would probably go beyond and higher up than the FCC. We’re talking about drug enforcement agencies, etc. We’d have to see kind an overall federal acceptance of retail marijuana before I think any broadcaster would feel comfortable that they were not going to be punished, fined or possibly have their license totally taken away for advertising recreational marijuana.”

Here’s a pic of Sasso and Rotella with President Abraham Lincoln: