NAB Show Continues With Regulatory Talk; Verizon CEO Not Bullish On Radio In Cell Phones
April 9, 2013 at 6:57 PM (PT)
The NAB SHOW in LAS VEGAS kicked off TUESDAY's sessions with what was billed as a "candid conversation" between VERIZON Chairman/CEO LOWELL MCADAM and NAB Pres./CEO GORDON SMITH, and after discussing video and wireless issues, the talk turned to radio in cell phones, with MCADAM telling SMITH that while his company already offers such phones, the trends "clearly" are leading to customers wanting streaming customizable audio and that radio is "not something customers ask us for." He added that radio on cell phones is "a very small issue for customers"; When SMITH followed up by asking if SPRINT's deal on radio in cell phones interested him, MCADAM said, "honestly, no," and repeated that the trends show customers moving towards streaming.
Two FCC Commissioners Drop In For Chat
FCC Commissioners JESSICA ROSENWORCEL and AJIT PAI appeared in conversation with the NAB's CHRIS ORNELAS, discussing regulatory philosophy, including their perspective on the call by Rep, GREG WALDEN (R-OR) for reform of the FCC's rules (they agreed that the Commission needs to work faster and be more open), regulation of the video marketplace (PAI preferring a hands-off approach, ROSENWORCEL stressing Congress' repeated citing of "the public interest" in the Communications Act), emergency service (PAI citing NEW JERSEY Governor CHRIS CHRISTIE's use of radio to communicate in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, ROSENWORCEL noting the failure of many wireless towers in weather emergencies), and an extended exchange on spectrum incentive auctions.
Asked whether they were optimistic or pessimistic about the future of radio, ROSENWORCEL said she was optimistic, and PAI agreed, calling it "extremely valuable" and lauding the TONY KORNHEISER show on RED ZEBRA Sports WTEM-A (ESPN 980)/WASHINGTON; "I think that radio is going to be an important source of information (in the future)... I don't see it as an outdated relic." ORNELAS raised the issue of radio chips in cell phones, PAI responding that the chips would be helpful but calling for a "market-based solution" rather than regulation; ROSENWORCEL said "I don't see a mandate" coming through regulation, agreeing that the solution will likely come from the market as consumers decide they want radios in their devices. And on media ownership and cross-ownership with newspapers, PAI said that the FCC "should recognize how the media have changed" and move to allow cross-ownership; ROSENWORCEL agreed that there is "no doubt media markets have changed" but voiced concern that studies show most news still being generated by traditional media and raised the issue of diversity.
Dave Ramsey Honored At Luncheon
The RADIO LUNCHEON included the induction of DAVE RAMSEY into the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame ("I feel like a wiener in a steakhouse," RAMSEY joked about the room full of radio luminaries), plus a keynote from JOHN TESH and the presentation of the Crystal Awards (see separate story).
An Update On Radio Regulation
Attorneys MICHAEL BERG, HARRY MARTIN, and DAVID OXENFORD joined NRG MEDIA's MARY QUASS on a panel reviewing current radio regulatory issues in the industry, with FCC Media Bureau Audio Division Chief PETER DOYLE participating live via Skype video from WASHINGTON and NAB Associate General Counsel SUZANNE HEAD moderating. MONDAY's AM "revitalization" panel was the opening topic, with OXENFORD recounting the ideas advanced at the panel (power increase, use of FM translators, an all-digital AM band, synchronous transmitters) and MARTIN added the idea of eliminating city of license and "ratchet rule" requirements. BERG said there needs to be a "cohesive strategy" to address AM's problems and warned that the spectrum incentive auction concept could ultimately be applied to AM radio as well. QUASS, whose company owns several AMs, said that "if the programming is of interest," the company tries to extend the station's brand with translators. DOYLE said that his Bureau Chief and the Chairman's office have been "very supportive" of changes intended to help AM and that moving forward with proposals on AM depends on whether the Commission sees opportunity in the moves. He added that a rulemaking on synchronous transmitters would be "great" and that changing or eliminating skywave interference rules would be considered.
On low power FM, DOYLE said that while he is proud of the work done to move forward under the Local Community Radio Act, he would wait until the process is complete before celebrating. The panel also discussed the process of handling the conflicting LPFM and translator interests in digging out from under the application backlog, with OXENFORD and MARTIN saying they think that the number of translator licenses to emerge from the process will be over the thousand some observers have been predicting (DOYLE agreed with the attorneys' assessment). "It does seem to be working pretty well," MARTIN said of the process. BERG pointed out, recounting a client's commentary, that LPFM applicants often have no idea how expensive and time-consuming operating a radio station is. DOYLE added the FCC is "on track for an OCTOBER LPFM window," but said that the next translator window "will have to wait" until the LPFM licensing process is complete, and suggested that a translator window might also have to be preceded by a rulemaking to amend the rules.
The panel also discussed legal issues involving noncommercial stations, including the KUSF/SAN FRANCISCO sale and commercial advertising on the stations, the MISSION ABSTRACT DATA patent cases (the company, sometimes characterized as a "patent troll," asserting trademark rights over digital music storage systems), streaming royalty rates, and advertising for electronic cigarettes (which OXENFORD noted "aren't really cigarettes" under the formal definition of the statute banning cigarette advertising and therefore are "probably not banned") medical marijuana (BERG warned that the ban remains in effect on a federal level regardless of what states are enacting, and could lead to trouble for taking ads until the legal situation is settled), and online gaming (MARTIN warned not to take the ads).
Regulatory Talk, With Beer And Pretzels
With soft pretzels (and mustard), beer, and wine offered to entice conventioneers to stick around at the end of a long day (moderator JANE MAGO of the NAB joked that it was "bribery"), a second regulatory panel, this one featuring FCC Media Bureau Chief WILLIAM LAKE and covering a wider range of media issues, closed the panel schedule TUESDAY. Attorneys JOHN FEORE, SALLY BUCKMAN, and ROSEMARY HAROLD discussed matters including enforcement (BUCKMAN noted that the Commission has been issuing several fines for public file violations, especially regarding quarterly issues/programs lists, and, for television, for compliance with children's programming requirements; she also discussed EEO reporting and recruiting requirements); indecency (LAKE addressed the Commission's attempts to clear out the backlog of complaints, reducing the outstanding complaint list by 70%); the quadrennial rules review (the panel offering guesses on when the study will be finished or whether it might be rolled together with the next scheduled review); ownership diversity (HAROLD noted that a Supreme Court case regarding race-based rules may affect whatever the FCC might want to do about the matter); and incentive auctions.
Attendance Up Slightly
The NAB said late TUESDAY that preliminary figures show that attendance for this year's edition of the NAB SHOW increased to 92.414 from last year's 91.565. Exhibit space increased 10% to 900,000 square feet with 1,600 exhibitors.
"Once again, NAB SHOW serves as the premiere event for content and communications professionals from around the globe," said EVP DENNIS WHARTON. "We're thrilled by the continued support from our exhibitors and attendees, and delighted that NAB SHOW's brand remains a powerful enabling force for technological advancement in media and entertainment."
ALL ACCESS' PERRY MICHAEL SIMON is at the convention providing continuing coverage for NET NEWS as well as commentary and humor on Twitter at @pmsimon.