NAB Notes: New FCC Commissioner Meets Radio
September 25, 2009 at 8:42 AM (PT)
The final day of activity at the NAB RADIO SHOW began with a breakfast session featuring new FCC Commissioner MEREDITH ATTWELL BAKER. Interviewed by NAB Joint Board Chair STEVE NEWBERRY of COMMONWEALTH BROADCASTING, BAKER said that "there will always be a place for radio" because of its localism.
Responding to NEWBERRY's question on mandatory public service obligations, BAKER drew applause when she said that "localism is what broadcasters do best ... I don't think, especially in these tough economic times, that we should have new public service requirements." She said deficiencies can be handled on a case-by-case basis.
On HD RADIO, BAKER said that the technology "holds a lot of promise," especially in multicasting (she favors AMERICAN UNIVERSITY noncommercial WAMU/WASHINGTON's Bluegrass multicast channel), and termed the dispute over a power increase for HD a "solvable issue" subject to engineering work to come up with a solution that does not cause objectionable interference.
"We should not be in the business of program regulation," BAKER said, adding, however, that the industry should steer away from "indecent" programming. She also suggested that the industries should work to teach parents how to use content ratings and tools like the V-chip to protect children from indecent programming so that the government won't have to get involved.
On sponsor identification rules, BAKER said "people should know who's trying to sell them what," but declined comment pending resolution of two proceedings in the matter. Asked about ways to promote ownership diversity, BAKER suggested working with smaller lenders to try to get more access to capital for minority and female buyers.
On a lighter note, BAKER said that she grew up listening to Country KILT-F/HOUSTON.
Attendance Drops; Next Year, D.C.
ALL ACCESS hears that next year's NAB RADIO SHOW will be held in WASHINGTON, D.C. at a hotel venue to be finalized soon. This year's attendance fell to 2,507 from last year's 2,649.
"Given the challenging economic environment of the last year, we were extremely pleased to see such strong continued interest and participation in this year's NAB RADIO SHOW," said NAB EVP DENNIS WHARTON. "The NAB RADIO SHOW remains the preeminent gathering for radio professionals looking toward a successful future, and we look forward to reconvening next year in our nation's capital."
Panel Looks At Motivating Staffers
A panel on "Mentors, Motivators and Leadership" brought together some prominent programmers to discuss keeping morale high and productivity strong in tough times. The discussion ranged from the buzz in a station's hallways to dealing with the PPM and the relative merits of live/local versus syndication.
Moderator TIM MOORE of AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT GROUP outlined four levels of employee, the "unconscious incompetent" (not able and don't know it); the "conscious incompetent" (not yet able but aware of that; "where your greatest growth can be found ... they're easy people to motivate and lead"); the "unconscious competent" (competent but don't know why); and the "conscious competent" (competent and understand how they got there).
CLEAR CHANNEL Top 40 WIOQ (Q102)/PHILADELPHIA PD TRACY AUSTIN said that gifted and creative employees are "sometimes" harder to manage. "The big difference between the ones who make it (and those who don't) is the right attitude." She said that those who can't schmooze and get along with others in the building "can't survive in this environment."
BONNEVILLE Adult Hits WARH (106.5 THE ARCH)/ST. LOUIS PD KEVIN ROBINSON noted the absence of youth at the convention and said "we need to find and cultivate new talent at all levels," talent, management, and engineering. "We need to ... bang the drum about our industry."
"Lay all the digital stuff aside and listen to your radio station," ROBINSON advised, suggesting that programmers focus on the on-air product rather than be distracted by the "shiny new toys" like TWITTER and FACEBOOK. "Be clear about what you want out of your staff ... before you go onto the TWITTER and FACEBOOK ... fix what you have on your Class C radio station and what's between the records."
Veteran programmer TJ HOLLAND said he is worried about the "massive overcorrection" of certain stations due to the introduction of the PPM, and said that he fears that stations will strip so much out of their presentation in a rush to just play music that the industry will relegate itself to "audio wallpaper."
On syndication and cutting back on localism, AUSTIN defended her company's "Premium Choice" programming by asserting that syndication "celebrates talent," filling a need for the industry to develop major talent.
More Stimulating Ideas For Radio
A panel of some of radio's more creative thinkers offered ideas on getting radio moving forward under the banner of "Radio's Stimulus Package." BONNEVILLE/CHICAGO's GREG SOLK moderated a panel of "radio stimulus czars" who gave short, timed speeches with their ideas (with a beach ball produced for the audience to bat around when a speaker ran over his or her allotted time).
SAGA's ED CHRISTIAN challenged radio to "quit thinking about radio, because that almost brands us as Luddites these days." He noted that "radio is in trouble because the businesses we serve are in trouble," and explained how SAGA is changing the names of its local clusters from "Radio Group" to "Marketing Group" to better reflect the company's status as offering solutions "on-air, online, on-site." He warned the audience not to listen to the doomsayers and said that radio would ultimately recover.
HEAR 2.0's MARK RAMSEY advised radio to reconsider who its competitors are. He noted that ASHTON KUTCHER says that companies should "be their own brands" and use marketing that uses the Internet to bypass traditional media, and discussed GARY VAYNERCHUK's use of video blogs and TWITTER to market his wine business. He offered that "it doesn't matter how many people we reach, it's what they do when we reach them," and talked about the integration of radio into a marketing program rather than being the entire program. He also advised radio people to attend non-radio digital events and to "drop ARBITRON," and stressed that radio is the "megaphone" and the "top of the funnel" to drive listeners to websites and other media.
FIGMEDIA Pres. and PEAK BROADCASTING exec BILL FIGENSHU noted that some critics say radio is dead and management thinks that radio is fine "and somewhere in the middle is the truth." He said that "it's time to stop expect radio stations to perform like it's 1999," calling long stopsets "abusive" and said that it will not be tolerated by listeners or accepted by advertisers. "We've got to get better at audience metrics beyond ARBITRON," FIGENSHU noted, to address the move to integrated marketing with other media. "We have to raise the quality of programming," he said, adding "KHJ changed its format from Top 40 30 years ago -- get used to it." He advised against creating stations for "cluster fit." And he told radio to invest in programming development and creativity, recruit younger people to work at station clusters and help PDs. "We have time to start making radio stations we are proud of," FIGENSHU asserted, challenging radio to "step up the quality of programming. Long live the 'Boss,'" he said, "the boss is the consumer."
GREATER MEDIA's HEIDI RAPHAEL said "it's time for us to retool the way we do business," suggesting that radio create "innovation task forces" to share ideas and follow the examples of successful businesses like JETBLUE. She also advised radio to revise its sales structure and embrace flex time, job sharing, and telecommuting to attract and keep strong performers, and look to create alliances and relationships with other businesses. "We need to reignite," RAPHAEL offered, asking the industry's leaders to work to improve morale ("we need that roll-up-your-sleeves mentality") and to "sow some seeds" and extend outreach to high schools to help grow future radio talent.
EDISON RESEARCH's LARRY ROSIN noted that "we are fast becoming an industry of old men," with panels of "old men saying things like 'we need to develop a digital strategy.'" ROSIN, borrowing colleague TOM WEBSTER's commentary, said that the biggest problem in the industry is not the lack of a digital strategy, but rather the lack of a human resources strategy to attract younger talent. His dream, ROSIN said, is for the government to pay for attracting and developing young talent, hiring HARVARD LAMPOON staffers and the cream of college talent, the best podcasters and YOUTUBE talent, and giving them time to develop their craft.
GREATER MEDIA Classic Rock WMGK/PHILADELPHIA morning man JOHN DEBELLA asked, "Why am I here?" before answering that he has seen bad times in radio before and that when money is tight, radio does not take its own advice to clients and cuts marketing budgets. "If we don't invest in ourselves," asked DEBELLA, "why should anyone else invest in us?" He recalled a WMMR PD telling him years ago that the station would henceforth ignore listeners under 25 because "they don't matter," and noted that the youth of that era does not use radio today as adults. He also noted that FM grew when young people were hired to do programming that appealed to their generation and suggested that radio do the same for today's youth on HD subchannels.
JOINT COMMUNICATIONS' JOHN PARIKHAL offered "seven practical things about radio," saying "fix the root cause and you fix the problem." Included were suggestions to "kill all czars ... because czars screw things up"; "stop lying to yourselves ... things are bad" (with criticism of the industry's embrace of HD Radio); "create a mental outcome of what you want to create"; make a list of tasks to be accomplished within the first 90 days, issued from every boss to every subordinate; listen to customers; "local is not the big thing ... immediate is the single most important thing in radio" (and local is a subset of immediate); and write a talk to convince a 20-year-old to work in radio and practice it on an actual 20-year-old.
And JACOBS MEDIA founder/President FRED JACOBS ("the Stimulus Dude") suggested that radio people stop looking back to "the good old days" and move on; he also advised that radio drop slogans like "less is more" and "Radio Heard Here" and move on to actual solutions. JACOBS proposed that the industry do a "SWAT analysis" to determine strategies rather than to react in a knee-jerk fashion. He also suggested that radio look outside the industry for help and advice, and said that personality is critical to radio's future and that radio has no "succession plan" to develop new hosts to take the place of today's stars as they age, as late-night television has.