For President/CEO Gordon Smith of the National Association of Broadcasters, it was his fifth opportunity to address the NAB Show. He used the occasion to make the case for broadcasting, to look at what the immediate future has in store for the industry and to urge those assembled to take full advantage of their opportunities.
Here is Mr. Smith’s address:
GORDON SMITH KEYNOTE AT 2015 NAB SHOW
Thank you all for being here.
It was five years ago, almost to this day, that I spoke on this very stage at my first NAB Show as the new president and CEO.
I talked about the issues that could change radio and television broadcasting as we knew it.
As I discussed the forces impacting our industry, it was hard to predict what the future would hold for us.
Back then, our critics were writing us off as yesterday’s technology, foreseeing a diminished future for radio and TV.
But as Yogi Berra once said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
He certainly had a point.
Fast forward five years, and I can now say with great certainty: Broadcast radio and television are more important today than they have ever been.
Now, you may be asking yourself, “What makes this statement truer today… than last year… or even five years ago?”
The answer lies in understanding peoples’ consumption of content – where they’re getting it and what they’re getting.
Today, people like you and me are bombarded with overwhelming amounts of information that come from an array of platforms.
In 2010, there were over 200 million websites… today there are nearly 1 billion.
Every day, people are watching hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube… and sending 500 million tweets.
But when people go to these sources of information, what do they find?
Maybe a heated debate over the color of a dress… is it blue and black? …Or gold and white?
Or maybe the latest celebrity gossip on Kim and Kanye.
Or maybe they stumble upon crass and degrading material.
And what you find on pay TV often isn’t much better… there the so called news is fraught with partisan bickering, where the end-goal seems to be who can shout the loudest.
In the past, communities could also rely on their local newspapers to get the news that affected their lives… but that industry is facing its own set of challenges.
Sadly, we have become a more fragmented society.
Recently, Senator Chuck Schumer from New York, a colleague who sat in the aisle across from mine, spoke before a room of broadcasters at our State Leadership Conference, and something he said really resonated with me.
In a time when cable news media is becoming incredibly polarized and partisan, Sen. Schumer rightly pointed out that local news has become even more valuable.
It’s where Americans turn when they want “just the facts” with no yelling, screaming and finger pointing.
Isn’t that refreshing?
Isn’t that part of the good that broadcasters do?
While citizens may be feeling bombarded by so much information and confused about how to distill it – confused about finding the truth – broadcasting is giving our communities coherence.
That’s why local radio and television stations are more relevant, more vital and more trusted than ever before. I don’t usually think in hypotheticals, but I sometimes wonder “what if.”
What if… Broadcast radio and television didn’t exist?
What if… Communities didn’t have a medium that could instantaneously warn them of impending danger…
…and tell them how to keep safe?…
…anywhere they are – no matter the time of the day?…especially when all other platforms crash and fail.
…there were no local TV and radio stations to support the charities that help our friends and neighbors in need?
…the investigative units that uncover government corruption and scams, keeping our citizens informed and protected, went away?
What if… there were no local stations to help connect small businesses with their consumers, spurring economic activity and creating jobs and opportunity?
What if all of these things were true… what would our lives be like?
I’m reminded of George Bailey in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
I’m sure many of you have seen this holiday classic.
So, you remember the part when George sees the life he once had completely disappear.
He later realizes that his life was pretty good… he just took it for granted.
And this is also a good reminder to all of us – our lives – our communities – with broadcast radio and television as the glue that keeps us together – well… it is a catalyst to a pretty “wonderful” American life.
We can’t take what we have for granted, and we have to work together to remind policymakers of broadcasting’s immense value to their communities.
Consumers will continue to explore different platforms for sources of information – many of which come and go like so many endangered species – but broadcasting will always be there, when all else fails.
In fact, stations are extending their services to listeners and viewers through apps and sharing news and information on their social media.
This fact endures, the majority of adults get their news from broadcasters on the radio, on the television, and online.
This NAB Show is a tangible demonstration of how broadcasters are innovating.
Walking the floor you will see numerous examples of cutting-edge technology – everything from innovative start-ups at SPROCKIT, to the drone pavilion, to the cloud computing conference.
Broadcasting obviously does not exist in isolation, but as a vital piece of the dynamic and ever-changing media and entertainment landscape.
I encourage you to take in the many innovations that are on display.
As we get closer to realization of the next generation of television broadcasting, we are beginning to envision the new business opportunities it could enable.
I believe next gen may be the key to building TV’s future.
Our NAB Labs team has produced a hybrid TV demo at Futures Park in the North Hall that features new service capabilities that might be included in future TV systems – like the ATSC 3.0 standard currently under development.
We are excited about the promise of 4K Ultra HDTV, which adds more resolution and contrast to broadcast video.
That means sharper and brighter pictures that provide spectacular images on super-sized screens.
There’s also a demo of 8K super hi-vision on a 350 inch screen and 22 channel sound.
That “sound” — sounds pretty amazing.
We’re also witnessing radio’s exciting evolution at the show.
NextRadio is one such technology that aims to better serve radio’s more than 240 million listeners.
NAB Labs has worked hand-in-hand with many radio partners to further the development of NextRadio, the first and most broadly deployed app to provide a hybrid FM experience on smartphones.
Hybrid FM is the result of leaders in the radio business working together to better serve listeners.
In February, NextRadio launched a national marketing campaign to promote the availability of FM radio on mobile devices.
NAB is pleased to support the NextRadio campaign, as this technology is widely supported by our members and strengthens the future of radio.
Now, winning our legislative and regulatory battles on Capitol Hill and at the FCC ensures broadcasters will be able to capitalize on these innovations.
And know this…your advocacy team at NAB shows up to work every day to take on your fights.
And with our headquarters moving just minutes away from Congress in 2018, we will send a strong message to policymakers that we are focused on the issues that impact broadcasting’s future.
That message includes ensuring new royalty rates that will fairly compensate artists while encouraging more radio stations to stream, fighting back a performance tax on local radio stations, working towards common-sense ownership rules that reflect today’s media landscape, and preventing pay TV companies from dismantling the retransmission consent process.
The TV industry is also facing the prospects of an auction that is both exciting and daunting.
Following the wildly successful spectrum auction that concluded earlier this year, many broadcasters have begun to look more seriously at the possibility of participating in the upcoming incentive auction.
The one refrain I have heard, however, is that this participation is contingent on the FCC getting the auction rules right.
The FCC must simplify its rules and stay out of the price-determining business, and instead allow the market to determine the price of each 6 MHz channel.
If the Commission can stay out of the way, I believe we can have a successful incentive auction.
And regardless of the specific outcome, I am most concerned about what emerges following the auction.
If successful, the auction will leave the industry with 80 percent of its full power stations, but only 60 percent of our current spectrum.
This leaves our industry with a key choice.
Do we want to do less with less, or seize the opportunity to do more with less?
This will call on the best thinking among us to devise ways and to encourage those investments necessary to preserve broadcasting’s value and to be there, more important than ever in service to the American people.
Together, let’s shape the landscape of the future now, and not have it defined and imposed upon us by others.
That’s where the next generation platform comes in and why it must be earnestly considered and pursued.
In an increasingly fragmented marketplace, next gen promises to provide flexibility, IP inter-operability and new revenue streams; opportunities to innovate to better serve our communities; and the ability to compete in a mobile world.
Every other industry is innovating and advancing their technologies.
By going to next gen, broadcasting would be playing both defense and offense.
Defensively, we would protect our ability to easily integrate with existing partners.
Offensively, it would give us the flexibility to choose and pursue the promise of ultra HD, targeted advertising, datacasting, mobility and enhanced multicasting on a shared channel.
Next gen allows us to do more with less.
This is a crucial time for those in the industry to work together to ensure that broadcast TV’s one-to-many architecture successfully extends to emerging platforms.
There’s a saying that goes, “If you have one eye on yesterday and one eye on tomorrow, you’re going to be cockeyed today.”
So, we’ve got both eyes securely fastened on the future and we will fight for policies that ensure broadcasting’s enduring value to the American people.
It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve America’s broadcasters these past five years.
And more so today than five years ago, I recognize broadcasters’ unique identity.
You are vital voices in your local communities.
You live where you broadcast.
You interact with your neighbors and you reflect the values of your communities.
In radio and television, there are moments like Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the first moon landing, and the tumbling of the Berlin Wall, that make everyone want to stop what they’re doing and experience them together.
What other medium can bring our nation – our communities – together like this?
There is only one — the medium of broadcasting.
And that’s why, ladies and gentlemen, broadcasting is more important and more valuable to our communities than it has ever been… and will continue to be for generations to come.