Thursday, September 24, 2009

Radio: What was the NAB's Gordon Smith thinking?

Were you wondering what the new National Association of Broadcasters President and CEO was thinking while delivering his speech at the NAB Radio Show this past week?

Gordon Smith: It is an honor and a privilege to stand before you as the incoming president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters.

(Thinking: Hmmm…maybe I shouldn’t have jumped at the first offer.)

I’ve been fortunate to meet with many of you and learn more about the challenges you face, and the opportunities that lie before you in this digital age.

(What did I get myself into? ‘Challenges? “Opportunities?’ Who wrote this piece of high school crap?)

It’s both an exciting and a challenging time for the broadcasting business, and I plan on hitting the ground running

as your president and CEO to ensure your voices continue to be heard back in Washington, D.C.

(Did I really just say “hit the ground running?” That’s rule number one in Speechwriting for Dummies. Don't use old clichés from Mad Men scripts.)

As a member of the Senate, I worked across party lines to get legislation passed.

(I just wanted to be on the side that’s winning. What's wrong with that?)

Now, my politics are the interests of the National Association of Broadcasters, which

translates into serving radio and television broadcasters and the American people.

(What do I do now? I'm get paid by the people who are on the side that’s losing.)

Having served on the Senate Commerce Committee, I’m familiar with the issues that

impact America's local broadcasters.

(Whew! Glad I caught myself. I almost said 'America’s local bankers.' They don’t own the groups yet.)

I am also keenly aware of, and amazed by, the public service that you provide to your communities each and every day. In towns big and small, broadcasters provide their communities with national and local news, deliver informational programming, report vital emergency information and offer unparalleled entertainment choices.

(Yep. No doubt about it. I’m back in Washington all right. I'm back to lying through my teeth again.)

You are the glue that connects your friends, family and neighbors to each other.

(Glue? Ewwww…another Mad Men cliché?)

As broadcasters, you take seriously your responsibility to be a fundamental resource for your local communities and your commitment to providing public service. That is an awesome responsibility.

(I guess this job calls for a lot of lying….er...exaggeration.)

To call oneself a broadcaster, is truly answering to a higher calling.

(Who writes this stuff? Religious zealots?)

It’s knowing you’ve been entrusted with the public’s airwaves, and recognizing that what you report and air impacts the lives of your viewers. You serve your communities in remarkable ways, improving the quality of life and fostering the

principles of localism.

(Localism? The traffic reports I hear on radio report on accidents occuring at intersections that don’t exist!)

And it’s going to be my job to make sure policymakers and the rest of America understand the many ways broadcasters give back to their communities.

(Now, I get the joke about ‘What’s the difference between the NAB and the Liar’s Club?’ ‘Absolutely nothing.’)

America’s local radio and television stations are integral parts of the towns and cities they serve.

(I have to make a note and ask why they never pronounce the names of the suburbs correctly. Is this that newfangled voice-tracking thing I hear those radio guys whispering about?)

Broadcasters’ contributions to their local communities are diverse, en
ormously valuable and make a major impact on towns and cities all across the country-in large part because each individual station has the latitude to serve their audience’s unique and specific needs.

(Yeah, ask five Cumulus managers if they even know the name of the mayor in their city of license. Cumulus? Or was it Citadel? Or Clear Channel? CBS? It was one of those C companies. Maybe more than one? Maybe all of them?)

But many of the legal and regulatory challenges broadcasters face in Washington, D.C., such as the performance tax and the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act – or SHVERA – can affect your ability to support your communities and innovate to meet the demands of today’s rapidly changing media landscape.

(Make note to speechwriter. This is a radio convention, not a TV convention. These guys never even heard of SHVERA. Is that how you pronounce it?)

As Charles mentioned earlier, you have a dedicated team of professionals working to ensure you are represented in Washington, D.C.

(I feel like Pinocchio. I want to touch my nose.)

And I can not wait to join them. But as a former senator I know, that it is the commitment from association members – the grassroots strength of NAB – that makes an incredible difference. You must continue to come together to fight for the future of broadcasting.

(If you have to remind someone they have a future do they really have one?)

I want to commit to you, that you also have a new president and CEO who is dedicated to advocating on behalf of all broadcasters and focused on providing the best service

possible to our members.

(From what they told me about this Fumbles guy – I know not to write ten ten-page letters a day and carry around a can of Tab. Beyond that….what am I doing here? Maybe the frozen food business wasn't all that bad after all?)

Too often in Washington, D.C., we’re defined by labels. The label I want to be defined by now is chief advocate for America’s broadcasters.

(That’s what I get for not pre-reading this speech – even though the twenty-four people that prepared it assured me it was okay. Did I just say we shouldn’t be defined by labels followed by me asking to be defined by one? Make note….got to hire some new speechwriters.)

The issues that we face are many, and I know that there are challenges ahead.

(This is déjà vu. I used that same line when I took over the family frozen food business. People, please, I need some new clichés.)

But with input from our leadership and our members, we will focus on growing our strengths, improving our weaknesses and always serving as the premier advocate for America’s radio and television stations.

(Make note to destroy all copies of Speechwriting for Dummies.)

One of our great strengths is the value that we provide as free, over-the-air broadcasting. And we must continue to drive the rollout of innovative platforms to deliver your content and demonstrate the great possibilities of radio and television.

(I guess that means I have to cancel my Sirius subscription. I hate doing that. It’ll take forever. They just don't take 'no' for an answer.)

Charles spoke about the Radio Heard Here campaign and building a strong future for radio by embracing new

technologies. And we’re moving forward with these many initiatives like FM capable cell phones, HD Radio and Internet streaming.

(Did I really just say that? I’ve seen some bad campaigns in my life. Like my last Senatorial one. But this?)

These are all very exciting opportunities and it’s really encouraging to see radio come together and innovate in this digital age. And while I know this is a radio crowd, there is also much to look forward to with the advent of digital television. There are many doors opening for television broadcasters with the acceleration and development of mobile digital products and services. It's

amazing to think we will be able to watch live TV anywhere we are. Mobile digital television will transform the way we watch television.

Advances in technology are giving broadcasters opportunities to find better, more innovative ways to deliver the high-quality content and services that local communities expect and deserve. The ability of broadcasters to operate in a marketplace free of unnecessary regulation will only help to accelerate the development of new broadcast technologies.

You will be hearing more from me about these issues in the months ahead, so stay tuned.

(Okay, someone’s not paying attention. I specifically told these NAB idiots to cut the TV lines. These radio people don’t get it. I’m talking rubes…not tubes.)

It is exciting to see that broadcasters have their eyes on the future, and there are strong plans today to build a stronger tomorrow. I know that many of you are trying hard to survive in this challenging economy. I know it hasn’t been easy. But even in these difficult times, you are still there for your communities – always there to assist and provide a lifeline during times of crisis.

That is something you should all be proud of. And that’s one of the many reasons I’m proud to be here standing among you today.

(Damn. This is another line I used when I took over the family frozen food business. At least there I could hire immigrants and keep them part-time. Well, maybe radio could do the same thing? Make note - are there any laws against U.S. stations getting voice trackers from Bangalore?)

This is a strong industry with a bright future. And I am very excited to be a part of it. It is not only an honor to stand here among you – it is also an inspiration. Thank you for having me here today. I look forward to serving as your president and CEO and can’t wait to get started.

(Make another note….please call 'headhunter' back. I made a terrible, terrible mistake.)


Anonymous said...

Love it. I was wondering what was on his mind. He did look quite preoccupied and uncomfortable.

Anonymous said...

He will do just fine. He will lie his way through the job like Fumbles. Let us hope that unlike Fumbles he can actually accomplish something.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, John, you got that speech from The Onion, didn't you? I mean, your comments were very funny and accurate, but he didn't really deliver that speech, did he? Gman? That was the REAL speech?!? Really?!? Holy crap, radio is in trouble.

Anonymous said...

That was a real speech. I heard it. Every cliche. Whoever called him nothing more that a vacant talking head is dead on. Hope he makes a better lobbyist than a speaker. This guy is so wooden he was being chased by carpenter ants after the speech.

Anonymous said...

LMFAO! Not at your stuff, John. You can't top the piss poor speechwriting Gordon Smith had to deliver. That was one bad, bad badly written speech.

Anonymous said...

I am sick of old media calling attention to the new "challenges" facing it but failing to recognize or even wanting to understand what they are. Radio is so mired in the past that I cannot see its effectivity for advertising and marketing. Your ten year cycle of downsizing and dumbing down has paid off. You have made yourselves extinct in the process. I once asked a radio exec about their digital platform and he answered me with "have you heard of HD radio?" When I asked him to explain it, he couldn't. He was told to sell it without being given facts and figures. Plus he did not even own one.

Anonymous said...

John, I used to look forward to your translation of David "Fumbles" Rehr's long winded speeches. I was hoping you would do one for the new guy, too. This one is unbelievable even when compared to Rehr. The writing on this one is straight out of high school. What issues does he address? I don't blame Smith. He's the NAB marionette. Come to think of it. He does look like Jerry Mahoney. I blame the ventriloquist feeding him the lines. I love your "thought balloons". You would have thought that Smith would have made some revisions before reading this cold. Or maybe he just does not know any better.

Brad said...

I was at the NAB show and one of its side forums yesterday. Forget about the latest figurehead, he's essentially a non-entity to what really matters to the industry, and even forget about the performance royalty tax issue. Of course it's critical to the financial future of companies, but again the industry misses the point that they are so far out of touch of what consumers want, even if there was no tax in the future, it's beyond common business logic and embarrassing. The one clear element to me is that this industry is FINISHED. Nobody has a clue about how to take the industry into the 2nd decade of the 21st century's digital revolution. I'm also convinced now more than ever that even if local operators get back in the game somehow, they WILL NOT be the saviors either. This industry simply DOES NOT HAVE A CLUE. I mean, jeez, look at this quote uttered yesterday by Rick Cummings of Emmis:
“We must embrace the digital world, because that’s where the young people are.”
You're only saying that now in the 4Q of 2009? The statement was relevant in 2003 - SIX YEARS AGO. Enough said. RIP terrestrial radio.

Anonymous said...

I heard Cummings say that. If you heard that groan after he said it - that was me and it was not intentional. I just couldn't believe he said that. That is why Emmis has gone to hell along with the other old line once respectable chains. Rick Cummings believes what he said. This is not to dis Cummings. He had a great career and was a fine programmer in his day. Somehow deregulation blinded radio groups from seeing the future. Gorman always says they were trying to control popular culture. I think they did not even know what popular culture was.

Anonymous said...

What a terrible speech. I did not go to the NAB this year. How was he received?

Anonymous said...

"Traffic on the Nones"

"The future of traffic information on the road. It's social. It's visual. It's not particularly distracting. And it's not radio. It's Aha, it's for the iPhone, and it's coming to a market near you. There will come a point in time when radio is not used for traffic information by commuters at all. Not 'on the 1's,' not any time. Traffic is about to come off that list."

Talkng about radio's digital future, there was evidentually a lot of talk during the HD Radio session about conditional-access and real-time traffic (Total Traffic Network). Haven't these guys ever heard of the Internet, and such applications as Aha?

BTW - your analog signals are about to be trashed, because NPR caved to iBiquity:

"Compromise Reached on Near-Term FM IBOC Power Increase"

Big surprise, eh? Now, you guys are about to lose even more of your audience.

Anonymous said...

How did that speech ever see the light of day?

Every "don't use" cliche is in here.

Well,he left out "without further ado" and "all in all".

Maybe saving those for a later speech.


Hope he is a better bag man, I mean lobbyist.

Anonymous said...

LOL over the Sirius comment. Anyone that ever tried to cancel their subscription got the hard sell of a lifetime.

Back to the former Senator Smith. It does not matter what we think. It's Washington that counts. Can he effectively work the NAB agenda and while we are on the subject, what is the NAB agenda in 2009?

Is it dated technology like HD radio, maintaining status quo on deregulation or even adding more deregulation?

Could the NAB please inform us what they plan to lobby for?

Those are the real issues. We would like to know what the real issues are.

Anonymous said...

I am from Oregon and until recently worked in public radio there. The NAB truly got a pig in a poke. Senator Gordon Smith was a con-job from beginning to end. Bipartisan he was not. He played both sides against the middle. He is not a team player. The voters got wise to his multi-sided fence. There were numerous violations against Smith Frozen Foods when he was running it (his wife is still CEO). Your Bangalore comment might have been a joke to you but not to him. This man is exactly what the NAB does not want or need. David Rehr may have been ineffectual. Gordon Smith will destroy what is left of your industry. Eventually his manipulatory ways will catch up to him as they did in the senate and if there is still a NAB it will be a useless lobby organization. The NAB could not have picked a worse choice. By the way, I worked with a former Ohioian named April Baer who had nothing but nice things to say about you. I enjoy your blog.

1 Hoo Nose said...

Hey John

All is well and good and as we know the NAB is as good as dead and buried with radio.

Why are you not mentioning the most important meeting that took place in Philadelphia that had nothing to do with the NAB. The RAIN Summit.

If you think the NAB and and the C company ruined terrestrial radio and that internet radio is the future take heed.

I went to the RAIN Summit. These guys are far more dangerous than any radio guy. They have locked up the new medium. The new FM if you will. Remember the name Triton. You will not be able to broadcast on internet radio unless you go through them. They have been funding Kurt Hanson. He, Pandora and a handful of others cut a shady deal with SoundExchange-RIAA and effectively blocked everyone out.

The deal NAB cut with SX - RIAA will be cost prohibitive for radio to deal with in another couple of years. Any other internet radio station trying to get into streaming will also be blocked. Again cost prohibitive.

The only way anyone can get around the fees that have to be paid BY LAW is to cut deals with non-RIAA related acts on an act-by-act basis which will be very expensive and time consuming and a marketing disaster.

Like it or not you have to play the hits. An internet station cannot program and play only non-RIAA tunes and be successful. Its suicide.

The past (terrestrial) is over and the future (internet radio) just sold you out, thank you Mr. Hanson, Miss Lane and Triton.

Anonymous said...

Love the hair. He is as freeze dried as his family's frozen food company. A cliche riddled speech, a questionable past and no real knowledge of the broadcast industry. Yes, the NAB does it again.

Anonymous said...

Just got back from the NAB and read Smith's "thoughts". I was asked how it was. Instead of telling people how boring and what a downer it was I e-mailed Gorman's blogs about it and everyone got a good laugh. I do not get the choice of Gordon Smith. My political people tell me Gordon was not respected in Oregon or on the Hill. Maybe the NAB knows something I don't but I don't think so. It was a bad choice. Next year's NAB Radio Show will be in Washington. Wonder if Gordon Smith will still be there?

Anonymous said...

Gordon Smith was voted out because no one knew where he stood on anything. He was a professional politician whose agenda was to play all sides. There was a folk song I remember hearing when I was younger about a man who sold guns to the Palestinians and bombs to the Jews. That's Gordon Smith. He will take it from any side he can get it. He is also used to getting his ass kissed. I don't think he can adjust to being an ass kisser which is what a lobbyist is. He is no match for the RIAA although he may be a too late to even get in the ring with them at this point. The NAB just wrote their own death notice.

I cover the waterfront said...

Here is another viewpoint from the TV industry on Gordon Smith. This one is favorable.

NAB's Smith Needs To Rethink Indecency
By Harry A. Jessell
TVNewsCheck, Sep 25 2009, 3:28 PM ET

NAB President-in-waiting Gordon Smith won points with several trade reporters at the NAB Radio Show Wednesday and showed that he is an old pro by telling them they were at liberty to report his comments. NAB PR chief Dennis Wharton had organized the meeting as an introductory, off-the-record affair.

Smith comes off as confident, thoughtful and sincere. While he doesn't throw off the energy that his processor David Rehr did, he has the same likeability and far more polish. Smith is someone who will be listened to.

Sitting around a circular banquet table, we learned a bit more the man's background. For instance, even though he was born in Oregon and represented the state in the Senate for 12 years, he was actually raised in the Washington suburbs after his father went to work in the Eisenhower administration and later became president of the National Canners Association. "I grew up in a trade association family."

Smith also made a good case for his being, as advertised, a bi-partisan kind of guy. It's a touchy point. Many had expected the NAB to hire a Democrat since that party is much in vogue in Washington these days. In introducing Smith, NAB Joint Board Chairman Steve Newberry said the NAB can't be switching presidents every time the majority shifts in Congress.

I came away troubled by just one thing: his answer to another reporter's question about his vote in favor of increasing by 10-fold the FCC fine for broadcast indecency.

Smith made no apology for the vote. "I was joined by 99 other senators. When you wear the hat of an elected representative, you have a responsibility to reflect those local community standards."

"My job now is to help broadcasters who do not favor indecency, who do not promote indecency, to deal with the legal ramification of local community standards," he added.

"I will help [broadcasters] with that issue because they don't want to be tagged with promoting indecency. That's not what they are in business for. I will help them to get a message out that they respect those standards too."

Hold on there.

I don't think that many broadcasters "respect" the indecency standards, which reminds them they have fewer First Amendment protections than other media and that expose them to arbitrary fines, now so large they could destroy some stations thanks to Smith and his former Senate peers.

Now it is true, for fear of being "tagged with promoting indecency," NAB has sometimes been reluctant to challenge indecency rules because of the political cost. But it was always understood that the NAB didn't like or respect the rules.

Smith's comments, I think, betray a certain timidity on the issue that goes beyond political expedience. He offered no criticism of the rules or suggestion that they may be constitutionally suspect. Maybe he thinks they are a good idea. He certainly did when he went along with putting more bite in them.

When Smiths gets around to signing his lucrative three-year contract, he should be aware that he will not only be representing the station owners and corporate managers on the NAB board, who are uneasy with taking on indecency, but also the thousands of men and women in broadcast TV newsrooms and thousands more behind radio mikes who consider the indecency rules as an affront to their rights as Americans.

Anonymous said...

Jeezus Pleezus...after reading that claptrap from Smith, why would anyone want to work in radio anymore? Why would anybody who is actually IN THE DAMN RADIO STATIONS want to be at the NAB and hear this absolute garbage?

"Commitment to Localism"--is that where you run trackers from out of town and then drive your PD ragged working 12-14 hour days, running 4 stations that better damn well sound perfect and "local" with out of towners cutting tracks? For $40,000 a year? And he better kiss your a$$ because he/she's "lucky to have a job".

Those of you barely hanging on hoping it will get better--I pray you don't die on the job for these corporate rapers. They have ruined the industry and now have a brand new cheerleader for their way of "doing business".

Anonymous said...

I don't believe "change" happens overnight. I did expect that the NAB post-David Rehr would not stay put in the mistake making business. I assumed to much.

This NAB convention was a bummer in many ways. It had no energy, no drive. Everyone going through the motions. David Field ought to get his head examined. In fact the whole lot of them ought to as well.

This is a dying business. Not because it is being challenged by "new media". The real reason is that there is no life among its participants. They want to continue business as usual and convince themselves the good old days will be coming back.

Gorman said it months ago. Radio is self-inflicting its own death. It's not a suicide. It is more like drinking or drugging oneself to death.

danni said...

This is GREAT John. It proves what a delusion bubble industry people live in.

Anonymous said...

Since I've never seen a trade group president give a decent speech, I'll cut the guy some slack on this speech. The real test will be whether he can open doors and turn back the tide of anti-broadcast regulation. My guess is he can and will. But that won't help solve radio's problems. No amount of lobbying can stop the growth of the internet and other forms of media that are surpassing radio.

It may be a lot of fun to poke fun at the NAB, but the NAB is not the problem with broadcast. The NAB didn't make companies pay 10 times what they should for broadcast properties. The NAB didn't tell broadcasters to stop investing in local talent and content. The NAB didn't tell broadcasters to alienate their listeners by being arrogant and jamming too many commercials into every hour.

The NAB simply lobbies government to do what it's members want. Its course is set by its members, the broadcasters. So if you want to see change, it will have to come from broadcasters, not Gordon Smith and the NAB.

Anonymous said...

That's it...make fun of other people and whine, whine, whine...thats John Gormans modus operandi.

No solutions, just a sourpuss who is sad he is no longer a player anymore....

Anonymous said...

"That's it...make fun of other people and whine, whine, whine...thats John Gormans modus operandi.

No solutions, just a sourpuss who is sad he is no longer a player anymore...."

No longer a mean like the "big time players" who have driven an industry that was once nearly literally a license to print money to the verge of bankruptcy?

Go home junior...

Anonymous said...

It would appear me that the people who are about to be out of the business are those who are running it right now. Gorman is one of the smart ones waiting in the wings and getting his own team together.

Anonymous said...

"That's it...make fun of other people and whine, whine, whine...thats John Gormans modus operandi.

No solutions, just a sourpuss who is sad he is no longer a player anymore...."

Which Queer Channel stooge are you, Clown?

NX211 said...

Bash Gorman all you like if it makes you feel better but he’s right about the pathetic state of radio.

Anonymous said...

Bash Gorman all you like if it makes you feel better but he’s right about the pathetic state of radio.

Credit Gorman all you like if it makes you feel better, but everyone knows about the pathetic state of radio. It's nothing new.

Gorman offers no answers...just another complainer.

NX211 said...

Gorman offers no answers...just another complainer.

He's honest about the state of radio - how about you?

Anonymous said...

"Gorman offers no answers...just another complainer."

And just what answers do YOU have, genius?

Anonymous said...

The answer today as it was 20 years ago. Provide superior programming and the listeners will flock to your stations. It doesn't matter what the format is or the target audience. If it is programmed properly, you will win.

No tracking. No syndication. Involve the listener. Engage the listener. Make the listener feel important and not like a passenger in an elevator.

How is that for a solution?

Anonymous said...

That's terrific, BUT: How do you get the disenchanted youth that have never listened in the first place to buy into radio? Do you really think they'll dump their cell phones & I-pods to catch the latest reincarnation of Dr. Johnny Fever on terrestrial radio?

Anonymous said...

And just what answers do YOU have, genius?

I'm not dedicationg a blog to whining, am I?

Anonymous said...

He's honest about the state of radio - how about you?

I am honest about the state of radio as well.

That's the easy part. Whining is even easier.

But, like a grade-school girl who complains and accomplishes nothing.

Anonymous said...

"But, like a grade-school girl who complains and accomplishes nothing."

Suggestion: Go back & COMPLETE grade school - concentrate on grammar and spelling for starters!