NAB Show Wednesday: Wheeler Speaks, Radio Talks Digital
April 20, 2016 at 5:56 PM (PT)
FCC Chairman TOM WHEELER made his annual appearance at the NAB SHOW on WEDNESDAY morning, joining SCHURZ COMMUNICATIONS' MARCI BURDICK for a Q&A session that covered issues both general, like his impressions about working with the Commission, and specific, like the television spectrum incentive auction, repacking the television band after the auction, and retransmission consent.
On radio's future, WHEELER noted that radio is portable and free, and said he keeps the radio on in his office all day and in the car, but added that he is a believer in satellite radio and listens to the BROADWAY channel. "If an AM station were to come out and say that it was all-BROADWAY, all the time, I'd listen to that too," he said, adding, 'technology changes, and the question is whether the people in it change with it." On the FM-chip-in-cellphones issue, WHEELER said that "the marketplace is succeeding ... we're seeing mobile carriers increasingly beginning to offer it, and that's good."
"It sure looks different from the inside," WHEELER noted when asked what surprised him about working at the Commission, adding that he was also taken aback by the way debates are framed in extremes and citing the Pope in asserting that his challenge is to arrive at what is in the common good. He specifically cited AM revitalization as an example of something that the Commission has been able to agree upon, authorizing over 500 translator deals, and the new ATSC 3.0 television standard, which he said will be put out for comment before the end of the month. WHEELER also insisted that a proposal "will be on the floor" shortly on the long-overdue review of the ownership rules.
The discussion also covered the television incentive auction and reverse auction (coming in MAY) and spectrum optimization plan, the latter coming before the end of the month; he noted that the wireless industry has been chanting the mantra "we need spectrum, we need spectrum, we need spectrum," and the reverse auction, which might take multiple stages, will show whether the market agrees. He added that once the auctions are completed, "there is going to be a huge challenge in making sure that those licensees that continue to operate ... transition (to new channels) with as much ease as possible," WHEELER said, although he declined to answer BURDICK's questions as to whether the "will" or "shall" language in the rules mean that all television stations will be affected by channel changes in the repack.
On retransmission consent for television broadcasters, WHEELER said that "we're managing towards" a decision on the issue before the end of the year. He rejected the suggestion that the process is "broken," citing "give and take" at the Commission and claimed to be a "traditionalist" regarding FCC process. He also sidestepped questions on network exclusivity and non-duplication protection, saying that "we're living through lots of changes ... too often, corporate bickering has resulted in consumer harm. That's why Congress asked us to take a look at it. I'm not going to prejudge these issues ... there seems to be an increase in disputes (causing) consumer harm. That's what we have to take a look at."
And asked by BURDICK about his future and whether he will seek an additional term, WHEELER said, "it is probably too early to talk about that."
Digital Strategies Exchange, 2016 Edition
The annual Digital Strategies Exchange for Radio panels were held WEDNESDAY, starting with a panel on podcasting with LIBSYN's ROB WALCH and SPREAKER's ROB GREENLEE. The panelists, in conversation with SCRIPPS' ROB MCCRACKEN, agreed that podcasting has entered the mainstream, and GREENLEE noted that radio is positioned to take advantage of the growth of podcasting by producing more on-demand programming.
WALCH credited the latest spate of "SERIAL"-generated think-pieces on podcasting's "renaissance" to "SERIAL"'s psychographics -- newspaper reporters, who discovered the medium through the show and enthusiastically reported on it. The discussion also covered the introduction of GOOGLE PLAY podcast access and whether podcasts are additive or subtractive to radio (WALCH stressing that if people are increasingly listening to on-demand programming, radio needs to be serving up its content in that manner).
On the connected car, GREENLEE suggested that podcasting will be served by playlisting much as customizable streaming music services are used; he added that the car will, with in-dash systems and Internet connection, will become a "rolling iPad."
FLETCHER HEALD AND HILDRETH's MATTHEW MCCORMICK updated the attendees on the AM revitalization program's FM translator rush, saying that applicants need "speed and agility" to win in the competition for translators and facility changes -- the changes are being handled on a first-come, first-served basis, with one window application per AM station and a new window for all stations coming JULY 29th through OCTOBER 31st to follow the present Class C and D window.
JACOBS MEDIA's FRED JACOBS offered his observations about the connected and autonomous car in a talk that summarized the state of the center stack and radio's place in the car and a project involving the NAB, FRANK MAGID AND ASSOCIATES, and other industry leaders that resulted in a study of consumer behavior in the car. The study, "The Role of AM/FM In the Car Today," looking at responses from 1,200 drivers conducted in OCTOBER and presented by MAGID's MIKE BLOXHAM, showed AM/FM being the most used audio source in the car, with 77% saying they use the radio weekly or more, and 51% calling AM/FM their primary car audio source. 73% said that it is important that AM/FM be in their cars, and 72% say they're satisfied with radio; most said the would be disappointed if their next car came without an AM/FM radio.
A majority of those surveyed want their next car to be "connected," but a larger percentage of those with currently connected cars say that their car dashboards are complex -- 25%, as opposed to 8% for non-connected cars -- or distracting -- 17%, as opposed to 7% for non-connected cars. 72% said they want a simple AM/FM style interface even if the dash is connected. "This is yours to lose," BLOXHAM told radio managers.
BEASLEY's MIKE MARTIN discussed incremental business from digital sales and the avoidance of selling digital as value-added/free; PAUL BRENNER offered an update on NEXTRADIO; and DTS SVP JOSEPH D'ANGELO made a presentation on HD RADIO.
The slate for the afternoon included a keynote on the connected car by software developer and former FORD executive JOHN ELLIS, an iHEARTRADIO update from DARREN DAVIS, a panel on radio stations using video including GREATER MEDIA's JENNIFER WILLIAMS and NEUHOFF MEDIA's ZACH KERKER, UNIVISION's TED GURLEY and CARLOS CHIRINOS with a presentation on using social media during political season, a measurement update from NIELSEN's ROB KASS, and a "New Idea Showcase."