With a new format and new experience for all involved, the NAB Show Express officially kicked off two days of more than 100 virtual live and on-demand sessions midday Wednesday with the traditional State of the Industry keynote address from President/CEO Gordon Smith.
His message was filled with gratitude for broadcast media, and acknowledgement of the novel coronavirus’ impact on the industry, and the nation. “Now, as the world faces an uncertain situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, your work is more important than ever,” he said.
Smith opened his comments by thanking the exhibitors, those companies that support the broadcasting business. “Without you, our Show would not be what it is,” he said. “We are particularly grieved not to have in-person exhibits this year. We are all enduring this hardship together, and we appreciate those of you who have been, and will continue to be, NAB Show partners.”
Smith added that he has talked to many of the association’s broadcaster members across the past two months, and has felt their pain, adding that he has empathized with the very difficult decisions they are making. “Some have had to take out loans to make payroll,” he acknowledged. “Some have had to let go of trusted and capable staff. And some… I am very sorry to say, have had to close their doors entirely.”
He did not reveal which NAB members have ceased operations. In response to RBR+TVBR‘s request for comment, an NAB spokesperson pointed to the late March end of Gleason Radio Group’s five stations in the Auburn, Me., area.
Other stations now dark include Mt. Wilson FM Broadcasters‘ KIDD-AM 630 and KNRY-AM 1240 in the Monterey-Salinas, Calif., market. But, both stations are being donated by the broadcast operation led by Saul Levine to The Balanced Radio Foundation. In the case of the Gleason stations, no buyer was found.
Meanwhile, “temporary” sign-offs were seen at Bustos Media-owned AMs in Seattle and Portland, Ore., and News/Talk siblings WPNS-AM 1140 in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and WNWF-AM 1470 in Evergreen, Ala.
“We don’t know how long this pandemic will last, or what the lasting effects of it might be on our economy,” Smith continued. “But, there is one thing I do know — broadcasters endure. Right now, you are in the darkest valley, but know that for most Americans, you are their beacon of light and hope. You are on the front lines of this battle, and I want you to know that NAB stands together shoulder to shoulder with you.”
“Right now, you are in the darkest valley, but know that for most Americans, you are their beacon of light and hope. You are on the front lines of this battle.” — Gordon Smith
Smith also noted a bit of irony in that this year marks the 100th anniversary of broadcasting. “The story of our great industry is one rooted in keeping our communities safe, informed and connected,” he said. “It is interesting to note that during the time of the first commercial radio broadcast from KDKA in Pittsburgh in 1920, America was just coming out of another pandemic — the 1918 Spanish flu. Throughout the last century, America’s local radio and television broadcasters have been there to provide a reassuring voice and a sense of community during our nation’s most harrowing days.”
He continued, “We know this is likely the most challenging time local stations have ever encountered. This pandemic has crippled our nation’s economy and our industry has not been spared. Broadcasters are confronting plummeting advertising sales and enormous operational challenges. And yet, stations are doing what they do best: delivering the trusted and lifesaving information your communities need. We know you cannot rest, and we won’t either.”