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.”
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.”
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?