Broadcasting Today: Energized by Innovation

There is a saying that goes, “Everybody has a story to tell.”

My own NAB Show story began a decade ago – almost to this day, in fact – when I spoke at my first show as the new president and CEO.  On that morning, I shared the story of broadcasters’ unrelenting commitment to always be there for their communities … to inform them … and to help them.

It is a deep-rooted commitment that manifests itself in many ways that often go unnoticed – in ways that have become ingrained in everyday life for millions of Americans.

Our communities turn on the radio to find out what the weather is like before heading to work … to learn how to help their neighbors in need … or to listen to the great personalities who seem like old friends.  They turn on their televisions to watch their favorite local news anchor and to get an unbiased report of what is happening in their communities.

And, they turn to their local broadcasters for a lifeline during emergencies.  This vital lifeline is the electronic thread that keeps every community together, informed, and safe.

To me, the story of broadcasters is a story of everyday heroes.  What you do day in and day out can be taken for granted as your daily acts of service are sewn into the fabric of American life.  But make no mistake, what you do is vital – you are indispensable and irreplaceable.

I am reminded of something Oregon’s 30th governor and one of its best, Tom McCall, once said about the definition of a hero.  He said, “Heroes are not giant statues framed against a red sky.  They are people who say: This is my community, and it is my responsibility to make it better.”  An interesting note about Governor McCall – he was also a journalist and came to the public’s attention when he served as a commentator on Portland’s KGW-TV.

As a broadcaster, you strive to make your communities better expecting little in return.  And in this digital age, when people can access virtually anything from virtually anywhere from millions of sources of information, broadcasters’ role in every community has become even more critical as people search for a trusted and reliable news source.

In the past, communities could also rely on their local newspapers … but the industry has been undermined by the rise of the Internet and social media companies.  Now some of these companies and our competitors are complaining that there’s not enough local news to feed their own news streams.

This irony is not lost on me.

Yet, I doubt that they will ever be able to replicate the local content that broadcasters provide to our communities.  They will never have local broadcasters’ commitment to the investigative journalism that exposes government corruption and other abuses of power.  And, they will never have what broadcasters have that makes us so different from our competitors – our connection to local communities.

That is why local radio and television stations are more relevant, more vital, and more trusted than ever before.  And that is why the story of broadcasters’ everyday heroism that I shared 10 years ago rings even truer today.

One story we’re excited to tell is about Next Generation Television, also known as ATSC 3.0.  With Next Gen TV, we see the convergence of over the air and over the top, resulting in an enhanced viewing experience.

This enables TV stations to deliver their programming over the air not only to new TVs, but also to next-gen-enabled tablets and cell phones without using your cellular network.  So, you can watch your shows and local news on the go without using all of your data.  The benefits of Next Gen TV include 4K ultra-high-definition video, immersive, theater-like sound, interactive applications, and mobility.

A Next Gen TV attachment on my phone lets me watch my favorite stations anywhere I am.  And with this device, I am connected to a lifeline that can warn me of an impending storm and alert me to other emergencies with targeted public warnings that are interactive and mobile.

While we grapple with these rapidly evolving changes in media, we remain energized by the innovations shaping radio’s future.  NAB is actively working with automakers and Internet service providers from around the globe to develop the next generation of radio that combines broadcasting with Internet connectivity to create new user experiences in the connected car and beyond.

As broadcasters move to unleash this next generation of free broadcast radio and TV service, we will continue to work with the government to ensure as much flexibility as possible to allow stations to provide the very best services for their listeners and viewers.  And working alongside the NAB Leadership Foundation, we are committed to ensuring that the broadcasting industry reflects the rich diversity of America and gives a voice to the distinct communities we serve.

As nearly 1,000 television stations move to new frequencies through 2020 to make room for wireless services, we will continue to work with the FCC and Congress to ensure that Americans’ access to their local TV and radio stations will not be threatened.  Broadcasters are willing to fight to continue bringing the most trusted local news, lifesaving information, and the best entertainment to their listeners and viewers.

In his farewell address to the Oregon legislature, Governor McCall said, “May we forever prove (by our action) that people can join together for mutual benefit and greater good.”

It is my hope that the actions we take in our nation’s capital and working together as a unified voice result in broadcasters’ ability to continue serving our communities for generations to come.

Gordon Smith is president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters.  He delivered the annual NAB State of the Industry address during the 2019 NAB Show in Las Vegas on April 8.  This article is an edited version of his remarks.  His full address can be found here.