An open letter to David Rehr


Rock (or is it Roll) to (NAB President) David Rehr:  It’s about broadcast radio remaining the Dashboard Dominator.

True NAB will be forced to repudiate all the hyperbolic praise related to the HD radio roll-out.  After all, unlike Sirius and XM, Ibiquity didn’t do such a great job of super-charging market penetration by cutting lucrative equity deals with OEM’s. 

And why when offered the opportunity, didn’t Bob Struble and his many radio company investors just give Steve Jobs a fee-free license to include HD radio reception to the latest version of the iPod (Touch)?  Doesn’t the value of "hip-ness" factor resonate as a result of your years in the beer-marketing business?  Instead of fearing the thin white wires, exploit the opportunity to bask in the cache for heaven’s sake.

So, now the Wall Street pundits sense such a shift in regulatory attitude in Washington as to handicap the odds in favor of approval for the Sirius/XM Merger?  Even though they cut content deals that bought Sirius to the brink of financial collapse, Mel Karmazin and Gary Parsons must be positively giddy over the combined average increase of around 35% in the value of their equity since their stocks’ prices hit a low earlier this year (even after a recent downgrade from UBS).

Given the recent loss on the Internet Streaming Royalties issue to the upstart middle-(bag)man SoundExchange, and the set-back (largely the result of Judy Collins bringing the flower-power generation members of the Senate Commerce Committee to teats with her stirring anti-corporate radio re-interpretation of Amazing Grace) can the vaunted NAB lobbying machine be running on empty?

Would you be surprised to learn that your humble correspondent believes he may have the argument that shifts the present rising tide of sentiment in support of the Sirius/XM coupling?  Point out the obvious to the regulators and legislators.  Approval will grant the merged entity monopoly control over your automobile’s factory installed content delivery system (which most of us common folk refer to simply as our car radio).

If all else fails prevail upon the powers that be to at least guarantee the existence of some semblance of competition in this very limited space by attaching conditions to the merger that provide an opportunity similar to what the "must-carry" rules and the retransmission fee consent decree afford our broadcast brethren in TV.  If the merger does win approval it should also come with the condition that Sirius/XM be required to give-up some transponder space free of charge (or at least at a greatly reduced rate) to any nascent competitor looking to launch.

A bold initiative is about the only chance you have to pull this rabbit out of the hat.  Both the NAB and radio simply have too much at stake not to try a little prestidigitation.

As we all head for Charlotte, to some the smell of desperation hangs heavy in the air.  Baloney I say.  The fact is for a bunch of us, this is the dawning of a radio renaissance and we are psyched over the opportunity to make all this exciting new media content delivery technology work to broaden radio’s reach by sharing our unique local flavor with a global audience.

Paul W. Robinson
Emerald City Radio Partners
Baltimore, MD