Future Of Broadcast News Subject Of NAB, RTDNA Panel
April 12, 2010 at 4:20 PM (PT)
A joint NAB SHOW and RTNDA@NAB panel on the future of broadcast news moderated by CBS News National Correspondent and weekend CBS EVENING NEWS anchor RUSS MITCHELL gave an overview of where the broadcast news industry stands today and where it is headed, and an overriding theme was that the audience has changed, and with changed expectations has come a need for change in the way news is gathered, disseminated, and filtered.
Panelists were bullish on the possibilities afforded by technology to disseminate news. HEARST TELEVISION VP, News BRIAN BRACCO said "You bring it (any new medium) on, local broadcast television news will figure out a way to broadcast on it.... I think we are relevant." Citing the footage of last year's violent election protests in IRAN, YOUTUBE Head of News and Politics STEVE GROVE added, "Broadcast news has never been stronger if you redefine what broadcast means... today, anyone can broadcast." AUDIENCE RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT CEO JERRY GUMBERT asserted, "We're bullish, and I think all of our clients are bullish," although he warned, "We have got to catch up to where the consumer is.... as we catch up over the next year or two years, wonderful things can happen."
NBC NEWS CHANNEL President BOB HORNER worried that broadcast news media's product could "drown in a sea of information" created by individuals not interested in the truth; he said that there is a "distinction between taking pictures and getting news." RAYCOM MEDIA CEO PAUL MCTEAR was also more reserved, asking how the industry could balance the new ability to create more content with the restriction of dwindling advertising revenues.
But as for radio, CBS RADUO NEWS President HARVEY NAGLER, noting that ratings for all-News and News-Talk stations have recently reached record highs, said that with regard to local stations, "things have never been better." He did, however, note that "these are really challenging times" and said that use of multiple digital platforms is "essential to our growth."
The television managers on the panel hesitated to answer MITCHELL's question about whether layoffs have affected the quality of their news product, with BRACCO taking particular exception and insisting that "numbers don't equal quality. People equal quality." Both BRACCO and MCTEAR said that the expectations of the audience have changed and the industry is trying to change with them. "If we don't change with the audience," BRACCO said, "we won't have an audience there."
The panel also addressed the issue of whether YOUTUBE should be somehow filtering the material on its site to avoid dissemination of false information, and whether the days of "appointment" viewing and listening are over (NAGLER noted that some of CBS' radio offerings remain "appointment listening" and that the key is having the right content). And HORNER drew applause when he told the audience that it is "time to reinvest in something the audience isn't going to get from anyone else."