NAB Responds to FM Chip Criticism and Proves Our Point


Say it isn’t so. Tell us the National Association of Broadcasters in a response devoid of relevancy or significance dismissed our criticisms as silly. Say it isn’t so. Unfortunately, the response is online here, so it must be true.

NAB EVP Dennis Wharton when asked about our criticisms not only took great exception, he expressed his outrage. In the process, Mr. Wharton proved our point better than we could have.

RadioInsights the other day suggested the NAB had done little over the years to bolster consumer support for broadcast radio. We asked what the NAB had done in the past few years to draw attention to the continued relevance and popularity of radio.

We suggested that radio would be in a better position to lobby for an FM chip if it had defended against the rising tide of critics declaring radio dead. But the NAB chose to remain silent:

Now at a time when radio needs the goodwill that a sustained campaign of promoting radio could have given it, we have nothing.

In response, Mr. Wharton first notes that he has spent 14 years defending free and local radio. While it might be a source of pride for him, it is an embarrassing admission. What has happened to radio over the past 14 years that Mr. Wharton can be proud of?

What improvements to the medium did the NAB spearhead?

Consolidation throwing thousands of radio people out of work? Then the bankruptcies and near bankruptcies of some of the largest consolidated groups? The first multi-year decline in revenues? The failure of HD Radio? Can we think of anything that the NAB should be proud of?

And now we have the NAB leading the charge to redistribute millions of dollars from broadcasters to the record labels.

Mr. Wharton seems proud that he had just sent a letter to David Lieberman, Sr. Media Reporter with USA TODAY. The same e-mail went to The New York Time, The Boston Globe, etc.

It leaves one speechless.

While he might think a letter writing campaign defending the FM chip is in radio’s best interest, we are more concerned that Mr. Wharton didn’t write letters to the media as it produced story after story about the death of radio.

New-media has gotten enormous free publicity from newspapers. Radio’s imminent death has been announced in the New York Times on a nearly monthly basis for the past several years. Where were Mr. Wharton’s writing skills then?

The NAB didn’t seem the least bit concerned about radio then. Perhaps if the NAB had been more supportive of radio all along, its negotiating position now would be stronger.

Mr Wharton also brags that 60 U.S. House representatives from both sides of the aisle advocate that FM radio capability be added to all mobile phones sold in the US, citing safety and emergency warning alert concerns.

With over 400 members, having the support of 60 representatives on an issue of safety seems like a sign of weakness, not power. More importantly, what do safety and emergency warning concerns have to do with performance royalties?

Does Mr. Wharton really think this disproves our point? Is this the evidence Mr. Wharton thinks proves the NAB has supported radio through these challenging times?

We can only conclude that Mr. Wharton didn’t read our comments, or after reading them couldn’t find anything to disprove them.

We ask again: What has the NAB done in the past several years to refute the silly claims of new-media shills that radio is dead?

For example, did it create a “truth squad” to counter new-media stakeholders who publically dismissed broadcast media as obsolete?

Did this truth squad leap to radio’s defense showing its continued relevance and strength when mainstream media began to accept the “radio is dead” meme as real?

If it did, we can’t find any evidence.

Now that the FM chip is in play, I’m sure Mr. Wharton can cite any number of efforts he is making to get the deal done.

Our point is that without critical preparatory work, radio’s efforts to sell the FM chip makes radio look as weak as the new-media pundits claim:

So when the NAB and RIAA worked out a backroom deal to require an FM chip in cellphones, of course the pundits went crazy. It just looks like a couple of drowning major businesses trying to stay afloat by climbing on the backs of new-media.

Sun Tzu in the Art of War declared:

The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat. It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.

The NAB has entered this battle with few calculations and fewer preparations.

— Glenda Shrader Bos & Richard Harker of Harker Research