Spectrum Issues Take Center Stage At NAB Show Tuesday
Complete Wrapup Of Today At NAB
April 12, 2011 at 4:55 PM (PT)
TUESDAY's NAB SHOW sessions in LAS VEGAS began with FCC Chairman JULIUS GENACHOWSKI reiterating his support for voluntary incentive auctions of television allocations to free up spectrum for mobile broadband use.
GENACHOWSKI, devoting his speech to the issues of spectrum uses and the proposal to have some TV stations voluntarily auction off their bandwidth and share other broadcasters' channels, called broadband "essential" to the economy and repeated his arguments in favor of the voluntary auctions, saying, "It will raise billions of dollars for the Treasury, with serious projections of near $30 billion, that can be put toward deficit reduction and other important uses, like public safety, R&D and broadband connectivity in rural areas. It will generate benefits to our economy and society an order of magnitude of 10 times that amount. And it will increase the value of the spectrum for all stakeholders – including broadcasters – by ensuring the spectrum is released in a way that maximizes its marketability and reduces transaction costs and other inefficiencies. In short, it’s a win-win for broadband and broadcasters. And a slam dunk for the public."
He also warned, "If we wait until there’s a crisis to reallocate spectrum, we'll have waited too long, for consumers, for our global competitiveness, and, I believe, for broadcasters."
At a subsequent session, NAB Pres./CEO GORDON SMITH said that the broadcasting industry "is more forward-looking than it has been in decades," but warned of "those who would damage our business," specifically those pushing for TV to give up spectrum. Saying that the industry has already given up spectrum in its move from "Howdy Doody analog" to digital, SMITH said he was concerned that the voluntary incentive auction plan could become involuntary and could lead to forcible relocation for television stations.
He also voiced skepticism that a "spectrum crunch" exists outside cities like NEW YORK and LOS ANGELES, terming the present problem a "capacity crunch" instead. "They've determined that it's cheaper to buy our spectrum rather than build out their networks," SMITH said of the wireless carriers' stance. He called for a General Accounting Office comprehensive review of the issue, asking of the industry's opponents, "what are they afraid of?"
SMITH also touted the NAB's success in derailing a performance royalty bill in Congress. He praised the members of Congress and NAB members who "really came through" and noted, regarding the NAB's offer of a royalty in exchange for a mandate to put FM tuners in cell phones, that, "in the end, the record labels rejected our offer, but the performance tax died as well. In the end, the record labels rejected our offer, but the performance tax bill also died. We remain open to discussions. We're still at the table, and we hope the other side comes back."
CBS President and CEO LES MOONVES joined SMITH for a chat about the state of the media, and MOONVES said that his enthusiasm for the media ("I'm proud of being a broadcaster. This is the greatest business on Earth") extends to radio. he noted increases in revenues for five quarters in a row, and praised DAN MASON's work as head of CBS RADIO, adding, "We're as bullish about radio as we are about television." He said that the company's newly combined TV and news-talk-sports radio websites are performing "extremely well" and credited the company's commitment to localism, which he said distinguishes CBS from other media companies. On new devices and new media, MOONVES noted that the company's core businesses are network broadcasting and syndication.
Turning to television and the battle over bandwidth, MOONVES said, "spectrum is our lifeblood." He described the high definition telecast of THE MASTERS and noted that "it takes a lot of spectrum" to broadcast that coverage. Praising GENACHOWSKI as a "brilliant man," MOONVES said, "as long as it remains voluntary, we're fine with that... because we're not gonna volunteer." But he added that he is concerned that what starts out as voluntary could become mandatory and warned that "the devil is in the details."
Programmers Go 'Back To The Future 2.0'
Some prominent programmers participated in a panel on -- what else -- programming, "Back to the Future 2.0." discussing the past, present, and future of the medium. AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT GROUP's TIM MOORE moderated the panel with THE JOHNS COMPANY's GEORGE JOHNS, ACCURADIO's JOHN GEHRON, BONNEVILLE ST. LOUIS' KEVIN ROBINSON, and MID-WEST FAMILY BROADCASTING's JEN O'BRIEN. The discussion focused on learning lessons from radio's past successes in programming stations today, and changes in approaches to programming, with GEHRON noting that corporate control has removed a local PD's flexibility in handling talent. ROBINSON, whose Classic Hits WARH (THE ARCH)/ST. LOUIS has become a PPM success, gave JOHNS and GEHRON credit for his "not having to listen to crappy radio" in his youth, and said that their stations like WNAP/INDIANAPOLIS and WLS-A/CHICAGO helped form his programming instincts; he labeled himself "fortunate" to have inherited great brands during his career. O'BRIEN described her role at Top 40 WIZM (Z93)/LACROSSE, where she hosts middays as well as serving as PD, as "stewardship" of a station that she grew up listening to. GEHRON decried the "sameness" of radio stations nationwide after taking a road trip with his daughter, saying, "if all you are is a jukebox... your life cycle is going to be very short."
A Lesson In Hyperlocal
ENVISION RADIO NETWORKS' DANNO WOLKOFF gave a presentation TUESDAY morning on the burgeoning business in "hyperlocal" websites, offering tips to radio stations on how to make the new sites work. He gave an overview of how to arrive at a yearly sales figure of $143,760, including an "ask the expert" feature priced at $200 sold to 12 clients, a Facebook "discount center" sold to 10 clients and a "coupon center" sold to 8 clients, both priced at $100, and several other sales opporunities ranging from $250 to $50, all sold on a yearly basis and including categories like obituaries, automotive, a business directory, and real estate. He noted that the revenue is for a single hyperlocal website, and that a single station can create several in the same area. "You gotta sell the sizzle," WOLKOFF advised, also noting the value of upgrade packages and making payments easier through recurrent billing.
FCC's Baker Talks About Broadband, FM In Cell Phones, Radio License Renewals
At a TUESDAY afternoon session, FCC Commissioner MEREDITH ATTWELL BAKER said that she sees "a great future for broadband and a great future for broadcast and the two need to come together... we can come into a win-win proposition." Discussing the state of the communications industry and conflicts between broadcasters and wireless broadband interests with the NAB's SMITH, BAKER said "we're all going to feel a little pain, but we have to look at the long term for all of this."
Prompted by SMITH to discuss how wireless failed while broadcast did not in the Japanese disaster, BAKER said that the idea of putting FM tuners in cell phones is "an interesting idea" but suggested that the market decide and said she is not in favor of a government mandate to force carriers and manufacturers to include the chips.
On the topic of changing license renewal procedures for radio, BAKER said that she met a woman with a license renewal pending for eight years, and said the Commission "can do better, and we will." She also addressed the long delay in the Commission's ownership rules review, with nine studies commissioned to study different aspects of the rule, saying that the rules need to reflect the reality of the current advertising market and new media entrants. "We're due for some changes," said BAKER. "We have a different media market" from when the present rules were enacted, she noted, reiterating the need to look at new media when considering the cross-ownership issue.
The discussion covered topics like cable TV retransmission consent ("people love broadcast television still, so it's important that you don't take that away from them") and "cord cutting" by consumers who are giving up cable television in favor of broadcast and/or the Internet ("it still seems to be a little tech-y").
FCC Procedural Changes Explained
TUESDAY's sessions closed out with a panel examining the FCC's policies in several areas, including licensing, ownership limits, and other issues. Attorney MELODIE VIRTUE explained the new interference standards for LPFMs, and the FCC's PETER DOYLE noted that rules involving allowing additional stations in states reaching a particular level of density, inserted into the bill by Sen. FRANK LAUTENBERG (D-NJ), only applies to NEW JERSEY. Also addressed are the new allocation rules, which make a rebuttable presumption that service proposed to a new community of license within a particular urbanized area is intended to serve the entire larger market, and changes in the license renewal process for radio.
Radio Wrapping Up, But Show Goes On
The NAB SHOW's Broadcast Management Conference schedule ends WEDNESDAY morning with sessions on EAS and television music licensing and the RAB's "road show" training session for markets 50-100. The show will continue with sessions and events geared towards video, film, and related digital media through THURSDAY.
Attendance Up, NAB Says
Late TUESDAY, the NAB released attendance figures for this year's show, and the number was up from 88,044 last year to 92,708 this year, including 25,691 international attendees from 151 countries and 1,314 news media attendees.
"Content professionals from across the globe flock to the NAB Show every year, and this year was no exception,” said NAB Executive Vice President DENNIS WHARTON. “We're thrilled to host the largest media and entertainment convention annually, and delighted that the NAB SHOW remains the premiere event for the industry."