He didn’t quote Spiro Agnew’s criticism of "nattering nabobs of negativism” as Saga CEO Ed Christian had done a few hours earlier, but NAB President and CEO David Rehr warned against such pessimism in his State of The Industry address at the NAB Radio Show in Austin. “I’m talking about the negativity that’s pervading the radio business and threatens to paralyze us,” Rehr said, calling it more troubling than the tough business conditions that broadcasters are facing.
Rehr insisted, instead, that technology is opening new doors for radio, with big potential from such things as HD Radio and radio applications for the iPod. NAB has also been pushing for inclusion of FM receivers in more and more cellphones. “In fact, a recent NAB study shows this platform could reach an additional 260 million consumers. Let me say that again – 260 million consumers – there’s great opportunity for us to seize,” Rehr said.
While the radio industry is trying to counter an economic downturn and develop new revenue sources, Rehr and his staff of lobbyists is running interference in Washington against new financial threats. He noted that NAB now has 226 House Members as co-sponsors on a resolution which rejects efforts by the record industry to collect performance fees from broadcasters. “But we have been successful in making policymakers understand what this is really about – a tax on local radio stations that would benefit foreign-owned record labels,” Rehr declared.
“Second, let’s talk about the FCC’s misguided attempt at imposing so-called localism regulations on us. Despite having jettisoned these old localism rules in the eighties, the FCC is now proposing to bring them back,” Rehr said. Citing the commitment that broadcasters demonstrate to their local communities, such as that exhibited in recent days by stations in Texas whose communities were hit by Hurricane Ike, Rehr said broadcasters have demonstrated that a return to such regulation is unnecessary, oppressive and outdated.
“Requirements, like the 24/7 manning of broadcast facilities and mandating a main studio in the city of license, ignore the realities of the broadcasting business and technology. In fact, these requirements would have the opposite effect on broadcasters’ efforts to serve their local communities, especially small market radio,” Rehr said.