Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Radio: Fumbles’ Fractured Follies

NAB Chairman David Rehr doesn’t need a repeat of last week’s fumbles and turnovers.

How does it feel to be known as the guy who always pulls defeat out of the jaws of victory?

He may look like David Johansen but he has the luck of Charlie Brown.

Let’s be nice and call the NAB Chairman formerly known as David Rehr: “Fumbles.”

Most in media believe the XM-Sirius merger is a done deal and though the Justice Department’s between three and seven weeks from a decision - Wall Street’s posturing like its already in the can.

XM and Sirius hired an independent third party study of who stays and who goes when the merger is completed. They have to ID those assured “hundreds of millions of dollars in savings.” They're moving forward while Fumbles remains frozen in time.

None of this is good news for the NAB and, as we know from past performance, when the pressure’s on – Fumbles write letters. That’s his m.o.

He sent a “Dear John” to John Simpson, executive director of the RIAA’s SoundExchange division, replying to a “Dear Fumbles” from Simpson a day earlier. In it he expressed “extreme disappointment” in waiting more than three months for a reply to his letter regarding the Internet radio royalty dispute and the proposed royalty “tax” on music played on terrestrial radio.

In a week when everything was going south for Fumbles, it was capped by the arrival of Simpson’s letter, which politely told him to pound salt and provided detailed instructions on where he could stick his proposal.

“The NAB proposal was designed to resolve the very serious issue of the harmful Copyright Royalty Board rate increases,” Fumbles wrote. “Your letter comes over three months after our initial meeting, and the brief response mischaracterizes the offer made on June 6, indicating a lack of understanding with what we presented. NAB participants left the June 6 meeting with the feeling that you understood the proposal and that you would represent it to the SoundExchange board. Certainly, if asked, we would have promptly responded to any questions or need for clarification."

Whining is not becoming of a NAB leader.

It gets worse. He wimped out in his close, “Your letter suggests that a next step may be for NAB and SoundExchange to sit down at our earliest convenience. We have awaited that opportunity since June 6. NAB is happy to host any members of the SoundExchange board to ensure that our good faith proposal is fully understood and considered."

Come on, Fumbles. Wait at least a month or two or, preferably, three to respond. Show them the same respect they’re showing you. Those too eager are too easy. Meet with them at our convenience? How about saying “at my convenience” – and meaning it?

You’ve got to get tough! You’re dealing with the music business. Some of these labels are run by ruthless thugs that deem their artists indentured servants and those are the good ones.

SoundExchange is creating new revenue streams for the RIAA and the labels it represents and identified radio – and you - as an easy mark. You’re dealing with an organization best defined as the labels’ goon squad.

Grow a pair and get a backbone transplant or you’ll end up losing another one that you were supposed to win.

A week ago Fumbles summoned his loyal foot soldier and Joint Board chair Jack Sander to do the tough talking for him at the Media Institute’s bash in DC. His assignment was to make a plea to keep terrestrial radio royalty free.

Sander did the usual blah blah woof woof: music shouldn’t be taxed – and that the NAB is “confident that the majority of American people are on our side.”

What?

The American people are on your side?

They aren’t on anyone’s side. They don’t know about this – and if they did, given the state of radio over the past decade, do you think they’d care?

I haven’t locked myself in a room with eight televisions turned to every newscast to monitor coverage on this issue – but, I’ll tell you, for an organization that’s supposed to serve broadcasters – I haven’t seen nor heard a single mention of this on anyone’s air – TV or radio. And I use media more than most.

Sander also claimed – and rightfully so – that, if approved, the royalty rate could end up costing radio upwards of $2 billion a year. He added that it “would severely limit the ability of stations to serve their local markets.”

Local? That’s where Sander lost them. It couldn’t have been said worse.

Q: What’s the first rule of broadcasting? A: Don’t believe your own hype.

Fumbles, I know you hate it when I bring up Mel Karmazin’s name. You get that look on your face like you’ve just been bitch-slapped by Katie Couric.

But while you were doing your aw shucks, golly gee whining to the RIAA, Mel told the labels that if terrestrial radio doesn’t pay royalties – neither will he. “Terrestrial radio doesn’t pay anything, and our view is we compete with terrestrial radio,” Mel told ‘em, “and we shouldn’t have to pay SoundExchange any money either.”

Sirius and XM have been paying 2 to 3 percent of its revenues to the RIAA. Sirius is in negotiations with the RIAA and the Copyright Royalty Board, which wants between 10 and 20 percent. Mel is holding firm at a reducing his recompense to a maximum 1% to 2.5% of revenues.

See, Fumbles, the RIAA had something more important to do over the last three months than to write you back.

Fumbles, if you blow this one and lose radio its music tax exemption status, you’ll kill music formats on terrestrial radio.

Those that aren’t news and talk will go full-time per inquiry.

Moving right along.

Remember how confident Fumbles was with the future of HD Radio when Radio Shack said they’d test market units in their stores?

Fumbles sounded like the late Carl Sagan doing his “billions and billions” routine.

He said “thousands and thousands” of HD Radios would be sold.

Radio Shack didn’t even sell “dozens and dozens.”

Most had difficulty receiving HD Radio signals in their stores. The majority of Radio Shacks didn’t even display them. That shelf space was better utilized for Sirius and DirecTV displays. Those sell.

Radio Shack is the electronic store McDonald’s. There are more of them than there are any other stores offering similar products. When it comes to electronics, if you can’t make it in Radio Shack, you can’t make it anywhere.

Now Radio Shack, which was praised by Fumbles earlier this year for their dedication to HD Radio, is running a new ad campaign.

The spot says, in part, “Turn off the commercials… come to Sirius” and it’s running on radio stations throughout the U.S. right now – and they don’t have much of a choice.

The buy was made through the Clear Channel-owned Premiere Radio Network, which distributes syndicated programming and full-time formats. Clear Channel can’t afford to turn the business away and stations that depend on Premiere for its programming must carry the spots.

Fumbles, that’s a radio spot that asks listeners to turn off their radios.

Even worse –it’s working. Or maybe it’s just poor programming and too many spots, interruptions, and voice-tracking gone wild that resulted in radio losing over 4.5 million listeners in less than a year.

Radio revenues fell 1 percent in July, too.

Where’s the good news, Fumbles?

For a few years, the NAB convo was the backdrop to the latest deals and mergers. Now, it’s the milieu to the latest deals that fell apart.

I can’t stop repeating myself. We await your address to the troops at the con-fab next weekend in Charlotte.

We have expectations.

We expect a sad spectacle

It’s going to be a tough crowd.

Please don’t open your speech with “People are worried about the future of radio - or at least those of us who work in radio are.”

Fumbles, do you look back and miss the days when you were a door-opener for former Representative Vin Weber?

If that’s not enough – get this - Fumbles has still another new campaign to botch for broadcasters.

The FCC is deciding whether spectrum adjacent to that controlled by TV broadcasters should be used to offer wireless broadband and other services.

In one corner, you have the White Spaces Coalition made up of Google, H-P, Microsoft, and others ready to bid on the spectrum, and an assortment of community groups and Internet activists. They’re pushing for wireless broadband transmission of the Internet.

They’ve lobbied the FCC to allow use of the vacant spectrum, which sits in between the band used by TV broadcasters. Currently, this spectrum is not being used.

In the other corner, it’s the NAB coalition of major television broadcasters, television manufacturers, along with the major pro sports leagues.

For radio and TV, it’s competition. It’s actually friend not foe. The Internet access can only help cross-promote their product. Ever hear of Heroes or Lost? Streaming? Interacting?

The sports teams joined the NAB fray claiming wireless Internet would cause problems with wireless microphones used in entertainment events and pro sports leagues.

They didn’t mention whether the interference would cause problems with Belichick’s digital camera.

Both broadcasting and sports want the White Space Coalition removed from the bidding process. *

We now join Fumbles in progress.

"Unlicensed devices do not meet even a minimum of credibility. The bottom line is this: Millions of Americans will suffer if unlicensed devices in the TV band threaten their ability to watch TV.”

Suffer?

There are those who are proficient at taking anything, no matter how troubled, and molding into a symbol of something that’s more successful than it really is.

Fumbles is not one of those.

When he became the leader of the gang at the NAB, he talked of becoming good buddies with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. After all, they share the same politics and kiss the same butts. Fumbles never expected to find himself in routine opposition to him.

The FCC wants the spectrum used. In addition to convenience – and not being tethered to a router or hot spot – use of that spectrum would provide broadband access to rural America and poor urban areas.

Responding to Fumbles’ comments, Scott Harris, who reps the White Spaces Coalition and is managing partner of the DC law firm Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis replied, "It seems to me an attempt to prove if you talk loudly enough you can drown out any intelligent discussion."

If Fumbles could only come up with lines as clever as that.

It wasn’t brought up at the meeting – but we’ve all heard stories about those living in the vicinity of radio towers hearing radio signals coming from their washing machines and even tooth fillings.

Those things happen. Interference exists. Propagation exists. Overmodualation exists.

You’re going to lose the wireless Internet battle and that’ll put you at 0-3 so far this season on getting your projects through.

I remember hearing about a station manager in Detroit who received a complaint from someone who was receiving one of his stations on the stove. His response? “Buy a new one…or move.”

Maybe Fumbles is hoping that those radio signals bleeding on to household goods will provide additonal cume?

But will a PPM detect it?

22 comments:

Day of the Jackal said...

"Fumbles sounded like the late Carl Sagan doing his “billions and billions” routine. He said “thousands and thousands” of HD Radios would be sold. Radio Shack didn’t even sell “dozens and dozens.”

Another great post - almost fell out of my chair! Fumbles sounds exactly like Struble - hundreds-of-thousands of HD radios were sold in 2006 and over a million will be sold this year! Meanwhile, HD radios continue to collect dust on the shelves of Radio Shack, Best Buy, Circuit City (discontinued the Receptor HD), etc. As Bridge Ratings just pointed out, consumer awareness of HD Radio climbs, but interest falls. Struble just held a Press conference at iBiquity's new headquaters - he failed to mention that automakers would make a decision on HD Radio this October and that consumer acceptance would be a major factor in the decision. Struble stated, that maybe in 6, 12, or 18 months automakers would go with HD Radio, once the price of HD chipsets fall. Seems Struble is taking spin-lessons from Fumbles.

http://hdradiofarce.blogspot.com/

Jack - the name not the format said...

David Rehr or 'Fumbles' as you rightfully call him is the final result of the wrong management teams and owners running radio and television today. It really is not 'Fumbles' fault as much as it is of the people that put him in that position.

'Fumbles' is over his head and the only way to replace him is to get BROADCASTERS back into BROADCASTING.

Until then, 'Fumbles' will keep fumbling.

Anonymous said...

Radio once was a business like any other and operated under the rules of the survival of the fittest. Usually the best programmed and marketed station won. Occasionally not.

Deregulation ruined that. It may have looked logical on paper. In reality it has been a bust. No one can service their debt. Now the economy eliminated what you called earlier the greater fool theory.

The best thing that could happen is a crash in the broadcasting business and that will bring prices to realistic levels and return the business to those who know how to create success by knowing and loving the product.

If and when that happens a compitent leader will take over @ the NAB and we will not have Fumbles to kick around anymore.

Anonymous said...

the NAB has been in shambles for years. A chicken with its head cut off. Fumbles deserves them and they deserve Fumbles.

Anonymous said...

R U sure U R not John Morgan?

Anonymous said...

I am not "in radio". I am old enough to say that I used to listen to radio growing up and enjoyed listening to alternative music. I knew things were changing when the alternative format turned into hard rock and stopped playing all the good artists.

I now listen to Internet radio mostly and Sirius although I am listening less than I used to.
Sirius alternative is becoming more like FM alternative. It is still better but not as good as it used to be.

I wanted to register my opinion here and maybe some execs from the radio business will take heed.

Anonymous said...

Hello John Gorman. I found your blog through Radio Daily News. You make far more sense than any other radio critic and you don't mince words. I hope Fumbles is reading this and if not he should be. We used to call the fall NAB convention the "swinging dicks" party because that was when you would see Mel Karmazan or Randy Michaels strolling through the halls with their entourages swinging their dicks over the latest deals. This year everyone is humble and that rhymes with Fumble.

Anonymous said...

im your industry standard peon. i voice track, do weekend shifts on 3 different stations & read the liner cards & follow the log like a robot.
its not that i like my job. its work. it pays. i dont get benefits because i work under forty hrs. so im covered as long as my wife is working.
i have forwarded email to powers that be that legitimately complain about our formats.
they dont even read them or care because my boss has to answer to another boss who has to answer to a regional mgr who has to answer to corporate & etcetera.
radio has become apathetic. we have a huge turnover in sales. those that have been here for a few years say its not the way it used to be & none of the recent hired sales people stay more than 2 - 3 months.
everybody is miserable & moral is poor. we continue to dream that it will get better & that people that know what they are doing buy & run our stations someday.
we have one format that claims to never play the same song twice in one day. but they play the same songs every day.
even our pd said our playlist is playing it from top to bottom on day one and bottom to top on the second day.
i dont mean for this to be too long & i know there are many others like me that see the potential & success radio still could have.
if they bothered to read the e-mail we get they could save money on stupid misguided research & do it right.
i want the pds & gms that are going to the nab to read your blog. you know what yuo are talking about.

In competition we trust said...

I feel the merger would be a bad idea because competition is good.

If there is only one satellite radio system it will control price, etc.

I don't believe that they will improve programming. You even mention that they are looking to make drastic cuts.

They should remain competition since it will keep them honest and accountable.

Johnny Morgan said...

Hey, anonymous at 12.16pm:

He's sure he's not John Morgan.

Will you please find some conspiracy theory that cannot so easily be dismissed and disproven.

I mean, we didn't even have to try with this one.

I'm not him, he's not me.

He's a radio consultant, I'm an attorney (who did some radio as "Johnny Morgan").

I mean, far be it from me to deprive you of your fantasy world...

Anonymous said...

You are so so right about the RIAA. Its SX division claimed it had signed deals with a number of independent internet radio stations which later proved to be false. It's in RAIN (www.kurthanson.com).

Eveything you said about the RIAA is true.

Why is this Fumbles guy so afraid of them?

Anonymous said...

GIVE FUMBLES A CHANCE! Oh, that's right We already did.

Anonymous said...

You have made your point, John. We don't need any more commentary on David Rehr. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

You, Lefsetz, & DelColliano are the only credible leaders that care about your industries. You don't mince words & tell it like it is. Thank you for that. I do get tired of the propaganda from Inside Radio, Radio Info, R&R, Billboard, FMQB and the like that are nothing more than cheerleaders for radio and the music industry.

Anonymous said...

I am against the XM=Sirius merger in principle. Too bad the NAB has Fumbles. He sounds like a lightweight. Love to see him in a cage match with Mel Karmazin.

Anonymous said...

THe real villain is the RIAA and their alphabet soup divisions and the CRB.

Anonymous said...

I am going to the NAB and had no intention of anything other than networking. Now I can actually enjoy some entertainment by watching Fumbles.

I'm not buying, selling, trading or doing anything other than trying to get a better position in the industry than I have now.

I got in by volunteering to help out with a friend in the exhibit hall.

I have been doing this since the "swing dicks" days when buyers were king and pompous a-holes. They never bothered to go to the exhibit hall. You wouldsee them posturing in the halls.

Anonymous said...

There is a follow up to your story on the White Spaces Coalition. They have voluntarily agreed to test their wireless devices before continuing their campaign.

The NAB joked that the WSC blinked. If the NAB knew the definition of integrity they would know that the WSC wants to make sure that their equipment does not interfere with other devices.

Then you have the NAB supporting HD radio the biggest red herring in broadcasting. It got approval without proper testing. Ibiquity greased all the right palms and got an inferior product to market.

Have fun at your convention. CON-vention is more like it.

Fox Mulder said...

Who's side are you on? Karmazan or Fumbles? Karmazan destroyed radio and took over Sirius. Premeditated murder if you ask me. The radio and television industry crowned Fumbles king. I could not find much in on the web about it. Here is my theory. Karmazan put Fumbles where he is. He started his campaign to get Fumbles the NAB position while still at Infinity-CBS-Viacom knowing that he would be going to Sirius when his CBS deal was up.
I predicted that when Howard Stern went to Sirius that Karmazan was behind it all along.
This allowed Karmazan to milk CBS-Infinity radio dry and set up a weakling at the NAB in advance of making his move to Sirius.
Karmazan joined Sirius with the intent to merge it with XM. Karmazan knows his way around congress and the FCC and was able to make his move.
Fumbles has no connections and is in charge of an industry he is still learning about.
Like you have said in the past = 'there are no good guys here'

not morgan+gorman said...

john g is johnny morgan. johnny m. never sez anything bad about john g & alwys stiks up for him @ radio boards. their is no jonny morgan its john gorman here is another clue rearrange the letters in morgan & u get gorman. morgan is from cleve gorman is to. u can fool others but u cant fool me. u have been xposed

Johnny Morgan said...

Dear "xposed":

Tempted as I am to copy you and also write in lower case, leaving out vowels at whim, displaying all of the typing ability of a 14 year old girl texting her "crush," I will instead leave you once more with what is turning out to be a tiresome exercise.

I am not John Gorman.

Please get that through your skull. I am not John Gorman, and no manner of conspiracy theories, re-arranging of letters in names, and cities of origin will change that.

By the way, had you paid attention "@ radio baords" you would know that I WAS from Cleveland, but moved two months ago.

And Gorman hails from Boston, originally.

But thanks for playing anyway, "xposed".

I can give you my state bar ID number to show you that you're wrong.

One more thing: had you really known anything about radio boards, you'd know that my Goddamned picture was online for months and I look nothing like Gorman.

You're trying to be too cute, and your ignorance is really showing through.

How about, for once, making some statement about what Gorman says instead of playing "Guess who?" with internet comments and forum boards.

Yes, I "stick up" for Gorman because I know him, know what he's done in radio, and agree with his take on the industry. (His politics leave something to be desired, but that happens.)

Would that I knew something about you, "xposed," but cowards tend to hide behind bricks walls of obscurity.

Anonymous said...

Fumbles bumbles everything he touches. He is a loser and so is the NAB for endorsing HD radio.