Head of National Association of Broadcasters says best days ahead
Apr 17, 2012 (Las Vegas Sun - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
With the telecommunications industry pressing for bandwidth to compete with broadcasters, the president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters said the industry's best days are ahead and encouraged those attending the group's convention to keep up the fight in local markets as the association takes up the battle in Washington.
Gordon Smith, a former two-term senator from Oregon, said broadcasters "averted a spectrum grab from misguided friends who would have you believe that broadcasting is yesterday's technology."
Smith's speech opened the four-day NAB show that is expected to draw more than 100,000 people to the Las Vegas Convention Center.
The show is the world's largest electronic media show and the third largest convention on Las Vegas' 2012 calendar. NAB is a blended showcase for news, sports and entertainment content, debates on public policy on broadcasting, and a gathering place for engineers and other technical experts. It's open only to broadcast industry professionals.
The mix of interests was evident in the opening keynote with "Desperate Housewives" star Teri Hatcher serving as mistress of ceremonies and introducing Smith and other dignitaries.
Smith also referenced high-profile public policy battles on content piracy and protections.
"Earlier this year, we witnessed a debate that pitted the content community against the technology community," he said. "You may have heard of SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act); they became household names overnight. The idea behind SOPA and PIPA was simple and straightforward: Don't steal our creative content. But it didn't matter. The technology community -- the Googles and Wikis -- used their medium just as we did -- to create a powerful megaphone to change forever how battles are won or lost inside the Beltway.
"Like us, they used every tool at their disposal to sway public opinion. They changed the debate. Shockingly, 'Thou shalt not steal,' became 'Do not censor the Internet.'
"I share this to remind you that while we have been successful on two major issues facing broadcasters, we should never rest on our laurels."
Smith said the industry's big technological challenge will be to provide broadcast content to a wide array of devices while the telecommunications industry battles for the same market.
"We need to be aggressively pushing mobile and ultra (high definition). I was thrilled to hear just this morning that more stations and networks have joined the effort to launch mobile in 35 markets," he said. "Delivering live, local and national news, sports and our great shows to viewers on the go -- this is where our business is going. We must continue to look for ways to integrate the power of broadcasting and broadband to improve the viewer experience. Our adversaries -- your competitors -- are doing this. They're smart, they're ruthless, and they are well-financed."
Smith said ubiquity in broadcasting used to be a car radio, a kitchen radio and another on a nightstand, or a television in every room of the house. Tomorrow's broadcast ubiquity will mean availability in all times, in all places and on all devices.
More than 241 million people listen to free radio every week, Smith said, and in an era of Pandora and Spotify, "local radio is by far the No. 1 source for new music."
Local radio, Smith said, is a standard feature on cellphones in Europe and Asia, and he suggested that it hasn't happened in the United States because telecommunications companies are going to try to charge for it.
"Radio has new opportunities, including on mobile phones," he said. "Many phones in the U.S. already have this capability. But the carriers don't make that known and may refuse to activate the chip. Why? Some say because they have a vested interest in charging consumers with fees for data streaming. But given the certain failure of mobile phones in a lifeline situation, we're hopeful that over time, carriers will come to understand and appreciate the importance of having an activated radio tuner in these devices and to offload their ever-congested airwaves."
Later in the conference, NAB will induct TV and radio icons Betty White, Garry Marshall and Bob Uecker to the Broadcasting Hall of Fame and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski and commissioners Robert McDowell and Mignon Clyburn will speak on regulatory issues.
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