Here's National Association of Broadcasters President and CEO David K. "Fumbles" Rehr's opening keynote address from yesterday's 2008 NAB Show in Las Vegas This is a translated transcript of his remarks, which confirms that what was said in Vegas should've stayed in Vegas.
He begins -
I'm delighted to see everyone.
Translation: I’m delighted that a few of you still have money in your budget to blow on…er…go to these events.
I hope you are enjoying the NAB Show - this year it seems we have more to see than ever before.
Translation: We have more of the same – just a lot more of the same.
Some people might think that, as head of the National Association of Broadcasters, I might not like that upstart YouTube. The truth is - I am intrigued by YouTube. It's funny. It's offbeat. It's free. I mean, where else would you find things like this?
Translation: This newfangled Internet stuff is all so new to me.
I think we can all agree, what you find on YouTube is a different world - It certainly is a different world for me. And it raises this question for radio and TV broadcasting. Because of YouTube, because of the internet, because of cell phones and iPods …is our model broken.
Translation: It’s not our fault, it’s theirs.
Has technology and cultural change made us no longer relevant?
Translation: Always blame something else for our problems.
Look at this. If you go to YouTube's Web site, it says, "YouTube-Broadcast Yourself."
They use the word "broadcast."
Translation: They still use old media terminology. See, we’re still relevant!
They obviously don't think the word is outdated… or tired… or irrelevant. But the question is, do we? We know that the world has changed. Consumers have more options than ever before. The media landscape is rapidly changing. We're being buffeted by forces larger than our industry. Some in the business are a bit disoriented. Some are overwhelmed by the changes taking place. Frankly, some are not optimistic about broadcasting's future.
Translation: The word isn’t outdated. We are.
I can tell you, serving as president of the NAB is the most exciting job I've ever had. I love it.
Translation: I don’t have to drink on the job. Do you know how many F.O.P. cards I went through when I was working for the booze hounds? On the other hand, this job is driving me back to drink.
Every morning there is a new challenge and a new opportunity ahead. But broadcasters… and you know this; broadcasters can be a bit of a cynical bunch. And I'm afraid, that some people in this business have been staring so long at the door that's closing, they haven't seen the new door that's opening. The digital door.
Translation: Yes, we’re still pushing HD Radio. My dear friend Peter "Sgt. Bilk-o"Ferrara tells me that we’re getting closer to our saturation point. Any day now.
If we don't believe in ourselves, how do we promote our future? How do we promote our business and our valuable content?
Translation: It’s pretty bad when we don’t believe in the business we’re in.
Let me start today by talking about what is happening in the radio business. This article appeared in Business Week earlier this year by an interesting writer and blogger named Jon Fine.
The headline reads "Requiem for Old-Time Radio." He quotes a media analyst who bluntly says, "The model is broken." With almost bittersweet regret, Mr. Fine writes, "You loved radio for opening up a world; you hated it for falling behind what was actually going on."
He recalls radio with fondness. He says, "I recall huddling with it long past bedtime, the volume set low, hoping to hear something I loved…
You're in bed with the lights out, the music and the DJ's voice going straight into your brain, the images created are yours alone."
Translation: There is nothing more soothing than the sound of a DJ saying, “and now we kick off another ten in a row…” or “less talk, more music,” or “today’s best music,” or “more music, more variety,” or “your number one hit music station,” or……even better - dead air - when the Prophet goes out of whack and your engineer is across town at one of your other stations that crapped out.
Ladies and gentlemen, that is romance... that's longing... that is a connection. Listeners still want what they've always wanted. Technology hasn't changed that- it has just changed the devices of delivery. This is not to diminish the challenges or uncertainty of the radio business. In fact, I think one thing that's changed is that many in the industry have been so worn down by the battles and buffeting, that they themselves have forgotten the magic of radio. But we have not forgotten.
Translation: Those slogans sound even better in HD.
Last year, NAB commissioned a branding study on radio. And this began with a very thorough research project. We talked to everyone. We fielded a dozen consumer focus groups and interviewed over 5,000 Americans - young and old, all across the country. And what we learned was fascinating and inspiring. Some of it is no surprise, at least to most of us. Radio remains relevant.
Translation: In our branding study we said to our respondents, “Repeat after me. Radio remains relevant.” They did. See? They said it, not us.
The first thing we learned: nearly everyone said they rely heavily on radio for the information and entertainment they want or need every day.
Remember this from the movie, Sleepless in Seattle?
(Did Rehr just violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act with an unauthorized use of a digital video clip? Just asking.)
Translation: Now, don’t confuse me with the facts. Sleepless in Seattle was released in 1993 – three years before the Telecommunications Act’s radio revisions were signed into law. You know and I know that if Nora Ephron wrote this today they’d lose the radio. There hasn’t been a movie done in the past decade that has had a positive spin on radio. Hey, don’t blame me. It was either this or a WKRP in Cincinnati clip.
That is the magic of radio. For years, we've been saying local, local, local. And that's true, but we have a new wrinkle. We also learned from these consumers that being local, in and of itself (sic), is (sic) not what defines radio's value. It's the accessibility and the connection with radio personalities. And it's being everywhere and available to everyone. A radio is not a jukebox.
If you're listening to radio, you want to hear a human voice sharing that same moment in time that you are. There is power in that personal bond. A CD doesn't have that connection. An iPod doesn't have it. No, our model is not broken.
Translation: I didn’t say it has to be a live human voice.
In fact, when you look at Arbitron data, what you find is that in a world of ever-growing choices, radio continues to add millions of listeners each year. Last March, it was estimated that 232 million people listen to radio in a given week. This March that estimation is up 3 million people …to 235 million. No, radio's business model is NOT broken.
Translation: Yes, I know that many of those 232 million might have been in a place where a radio was on – but – reminding you of N.A.B. rule number one - don’t confuse me with the facts. In this case, it’s that hearing a radio on and listening to a radio are two different experiences.
But, we do have challenges and we have to address them. We learned from our research that many listeners acknowledge that they take radio for granted precisely because it's so pervasive. The public's love of radio is still there, they just need to be reminded of it. We need to reignite that passion.
Translation: Who wrote this? This sounds like Dr. Phil talking about relationships.
In anticipation of radio's centennial, we launched a major effort at the NAB Radio Show last fall to reignite the public's passion with radio. The initiative is called Radio 2020 - 2020 being the centennial celebration of radio, and also representing the clear vision we have for our future. NAB, working with our industry partners, intends to reposition radio in the public's mind.
Translation: By 2020 we’ll be retired and it’ll be someone else’s problem.
First, technology. We are going to make sure that radio is incorporated on every new gadget, everywhere-especially mobile, hand-held devices.
Translation: From can openers to ketchup bottles – we want radio on everything. Now, we just have to figure out how to get people to turn the radio part on.
Second, the survey found that people want new, unique content. They want niche channels.
Translation: I was going to say people are sick of the same old….but 'niche' is such a cool word.
This brings me to the great possibilities of HD Radio. There are those who said HD Radio would never make it-too expensive, too few stations, too this, too that. That attitude is changing. Ford, Mercedes, Volvo and BMW are just a few automakers that have made major announcements about offering HD Radio in their vehicles. And radio stations are stepping up to offer the programming to support new multicast channels of HD Radio. We still have a lot of work to do on this, but we are certainly headed in the right direction.
Translation: We know that in this case the naysayers are absolutely right about HD Radio…but never forget N.A.B. rule number one: Don’t confuse our listeners, our clients, and the press with the facts.
Third, we have to build for our future. Armed with what we learned from consumers in this survey - and with what we know about our business and the changing landscape - we have to act now to ensure radio prospers well into the next century.
Translation: Well, I know we’re already in the next century – it’s just that radio hasn’t caught up with it yet. So we're still partyin' like it's 1999.
Fourth, we must reignite our consumers. We need to remind them why they love radio.
Translation: I know he is now a traitor after recording “Radio Nowhere,” but as Bruce Springsteen once sang, long before his music was banned by Clear Channel, “you can’t start a fire without a spark."
With Radio 2020, we are reminding people:
- That radio is accessible and everywhere they are. Translation: Of course that doesn’t mean they’re turned on and being listened to.
- That it's simple and convenient to use- there is no CD to change, nothing to download, nothing to subscribe to, no playlist to build and nothing to recharge. Translation: There’s nothing – period.
- That it's available to everyone, regardless of their education or economic status. Radio is a great equalizer, a great unifier. Translation: Most stations are equally bad regardless of format.
- It reaches out to you no matter what your status or station in life. Translation: Unless it’s the HD Radio signal, then you’ll be lucky to get any kind of signal reach.
- Ladies and gentlemen, as aggressive local broadcasters we are going to make radio new again. We will be reinvigorated. We will remind our listeners, and ourselves, of the value of this great medium. The campaign is called 'Radio Heard Here' and you'll hear more about it at the Radio Luncheon tomorrow. And it's going to be great. Translation: ‘Heard’ is past tense – when radio used to be great.
Today, I have chosen to talk to you about the future of broadcasting, but I don't want to ignore the aggressive advocacy efforts taking place on your behalf in Washington, D.C. As you know, we have a team of government relations advocates and legal professionals that are addressing more issues than ever on Capitol Hill and at the FCC. We have a board of directors that is more engaged than ever.
Translation: You should see the bills we're getting from our lobbyists!
Let me give you just the highlights from Washington.
Performance Tax - Nearly 200 members of Congress are standing with us against a performance tax on local radio. Translation: That is until the RIAA opens their war chest….
XM - Sirius Merger - Twelve state attorneys general and more than 80 members of Congress have written the FCC that the XM - Sirius merger is not in the public interest. The Justice Department's notion that the two companies do not compete is simply absurd. If combined, these two companies will control more spectrum than the entire FM dial.... Think about that for a minute... Translation: I know that the best thing that could happen to radio is the XM-Sirius merger. We already know what lack of competition has done for radio (pause for laughter)….but we need something to blame our declining ratings, revenue and time spent listening on.
Localism - More than 1,000 broadcasters and their public service partners have written to the FCC to showcase station's localism efforts. We're working to make sure that the Commission does not place unnecessary requirements on broadcasters that would actually hamper stations' efforts to serve their local communities. Translation: And we will also start our new campaign to make sure that voice trackers from distant cities can adequately replicate local accents.
Rest assured, we are advocating on your behalf, and we have the will and perseverance to succeed. But in truth, we could win every battle in Washington and it wouldn't make a bit of difference if we - you, me and fellow broadcasters - don't believe in our own future.
Translation: What’s that saying about winning the battles but losing the war?
We must believe in it. We must act upon it. We must celebrate it. As some of you know, I have four young children. And my youngest son, who is 5, is fascinated by space travel; in fact, he dresses up like a Star Wars storm trooper nearly every day... But recently this made me think - when astronauts leave our atmosphere they are knocked around by tremendous G-forces before they enter space. That is sort of what broadcasting is feeling right now. We are between the realms. Not quite out of one realm and not quite into the other. And that can be an uncertain, bone-rattling, teeth-jarring ride. But I have no doubt that we will pass through the turbulence.
Translation: And just like space flight, we've increased the number of un-manned radio studios.
We can not let up on the throttle. We can not doubt. Because to truly reap the benefits of the digital age, we must move forward without looking back. This is an opportunity to reinvent our business. But we can't accomplish change without hope and a renewed spirit. We must embrace our digital future and all the possibilities that come with it. We must aggressively promote this great broadcast medium of the future.
Translation: Let’s not look back at all the HD Radio campaigns that have failed. Let’s just keep coming up with more of them. Even a blind squirrel….you know what I mean.
And if we believe in broadcasting...if we believe in ourselves...and if we believe in our future…then we will prosper in the new digital era.
Translation: Cher, an artist that was broken by radio (I know it was back in 1965 – but…) once sang, “If you believe…” Now, let’s sing a long.
Thank you. God bless you and God bless America.
Translation: Thank God that’s over! I need a friggin’ drink.