That’s what former Sen. Gordon Smith told broadcasters at the NAB Radio Show as he declared that “It’s a challenging and exciting time to be in the broadcasting business.”
As a Washington insider, Smith spelled out how he believes he will be able to represent broadcasters.
“Having served on the Senate Commerce Committee, I’m familiar with the issues that impact America’ s local broadcasters. I am also keenly aware of, and amazed by, the public service that you provide to your communities each and every day. In towns big and small, broadcasters provide their communities with national and local news, deliver informational programming, report vital emergency information and offer unparalleled entertainment choices. You are the glue that connects your friends, family and neighbors to each other,” the new NAB President and CEO said in his first address to the NAB Radio Show.
In Smith’s first meeting with the broadcasting industry trade press, RBR/TVBR asked how he’ll deal with the concerns of some members who think only an experienced broadcaster should be heading the organization.
“I know something about business. I know how to read a balance sheet,” Smith said. He entered politics from a family frozen food business, which is still headed by his wife. And he’s no stranger to what broadcasters do. “When you’re in public life, you’re in a lot of radio stations,” he noted.
NAB Joint Board Chairman Steve Newberry said he understands why some members have that concern, but he said he particularly liked Smith’s comment that broadcasting is a higher calling. “He gets it,” Newberry said. “We’ve got the right guy for the job.”
Under the law, the former Senator has 14 months to go until he can go to Capitol Hill to lobby, but he noted that he is permitted to talk if invited by Members of Congress – he just can’t initiate the contact.
As for his priorities, Smith noted concerns about the RIAA effort to have Congress require radio stations to pay performance royalties – Smith uses the term “Performance Tax” preferred by the NAB. “It taxes their ability to stay in business,” Smith said of the effort to collect money from radio. As a Senator, Smith said he stood up for the rights of artists stop unpaid music downloads, but that this is a different issue and the record industry should not disrupt a long-standing relationship which has worked well for both sides. “Artists need broadcasters and broadcasters need artists,” he said.
In the current tight economy, Smith noted that there are a lot of radio stations for sale in his home state of Oregon. “I want them operating. I don’t want them out of business,” he said.
The new NAB chief is also worried about efforts to drop third adjacent channel restrictions on LPFM stations, which broadcasters fear will increase FM interference.
On the TV side, Smith said he wants to make sure that broadcasters are not hurt, “and hopefully helped,” by the next version of the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act (SHVERA).
Away from Capitol Hill, Smith is also committed to “reaching out to the Apples and Microsofts and makers of new technology to include FM radios in their products.”
Newberry noted Smith’s chairmanship of the high tech task force when Republicans were in the Senate majority and said there will be a change at the NAB to embracing new technology.
Both Newberry, who himself has run for public office as a Democrat, and Smith emphasized the new NAB chief’s bipartisan record in office. Newberry said the NAB should not be in a position of changing CEOs to reflect the party in power, but rather to have the right person in place for the long-haul to represent the interests of broadcasters.
It hasn’t actually been signed yet, but Newberry disclosed that a preliminary agreement has been drawn up which would have Smith employed under an initial three-year contract.
RBR/TVBR observation: He’s still very, very new in the job, but he’s saying the right things and seems to understand what he needs to do to truly become part of the broadcasting industry.
While he was never spinning the platters himself, we asked Smith for his own radio memory. What radio station did he grow up with? Turns out it was WEAM-AM, one of the Top 40 giants of the 1960s in the Washington, DC market. Living in Bethesda, MD, since his father had been part of the Eisenhower Administration, Smith said “that was what all of the teenagers listened to” – as they went to the Hot Shoppes for chocolate sundaes.