Show Opening Highlights ‘Enormous’ Wins, New Priorities

Broadcasters have enjoyed enormous wins over the past year, said NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith in his State of the Industry address on opening day of the 2018 NAB Show.

Now they must do more: Evolve with changing media consumption habits, invest in technologies for long-term growth and pay close attention to the industry’s moral compass.

He cited recent successes involving Next Gen TV; modernization of media ownership rules; the prevention of performance royalties and advertising taxes; and the securing of $1 billion in reimbursement funds for radio and television stations affected by spectrum repacking.

“These wins came because of the willingness of our members to advocate for these crucial issues,” Smith said. “[Ours] is a very powerful voice.” He also celebrated technical advances that radio and TV are taking to adjust to consumers’ media consumption habits, and the role of television station websites as a dominant local news source.

Local stations have the power to reach and affect people like no other medium, Smith said. Without these broadcasters, he asked, who would tell us where to seek shelter in the case of an emergency, or investigate stories about government corruption? “It’s a reminder of broadcasting’s highest purpose,” he said. “Protecting this mission is our moral compass. It’s what drives us every day.”


Smith said the industry has found a keen supporter on Capitol Hill in Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and a former radio station owner in Oregon, who was featured in the opening.

Walden said that working in broadcast was “a great training ground for me in public service. What you learn in that business is that it’s all about serving the public.”

Smith and Walden discussed the congressional hearing planned for Wednesday in which Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will talk about online privacy and safety.

As Smith pointed out Monday, there is no regulation for social media sites, “and yet they compete with [broadcasters] for eyes and ears and ad dollars. We’re in the same business as them, but we’re highly regulated. Do we need less regulation, or more for them?”

This topic brings up broader questions about the evolving nature of media platforms, whether they are TV, radio or social media, Walden said. “My job is to get to the facts first and then figure out policy going forward,” he said. Walden and Smith urged Apple to activate FM chips in their mobile devices, with Walden calling it a “no brainer” and citing potential public safety benefits.

Does Walden have advice for broadcasters? Don’t presume that members of Congress who make decisions about your business know what you do. “I’ve seen it too often; some don’t understand what it takes to put together a newscast or how the industry works,” he said.


The morning session concluded with the presentation of the NAB Distinguished Service Award to journalist Robin Roberts. As co-anchor of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Roberts was honored by the NAB for her significant and lasting contribution to broadcasting.

Roberts was recognized for advocacy work for those with cancer, her work as a sportscaster on ESPN and her early years on radio and TV in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Those first years in radio and TV stuck with her. They are so engrained in her memory that she was able to tick off jingle after jingle—to laughs from the audience—from the TV and radio stations for which she worked during her early years in the business.

Her success, she said, comes from the strong foundation her parents instilled at an early age. Around her house, she said, three Ds ruled: “Discipline, determination and d’Lord.”

“I hope the content you want to work on will … lead to action,” she told the crowd. “Action to be of help, to be a source of information to others. These are very uncertain times in our industry and our world. Why not see uncertainty as endless opportunities, proof that anything and everything is possible?”


The address was rounded out with a conversation with Lionsgate Television Group Chairman Kevin Beggs, speaking with Hearst Television President and NAB Television Board Chairman Jordan Wertlieb about the future of storytelling and how new platforms have thrown a wrench in the way scripted and non-scripted programming is vetted and produced.

Beggs said that because of the evolving nature of the industry, it’s now necessary to customize and prioritize programming for its specific platform — streaming, broadcast or cable.

“Some are looking to get on as many platforms as possible, others are looking for creative freedom” that can come with operating on certain platforms, Beggs said. He touched on the benefits of certain platforms; the ways vertical integration and consolidation have impacted the programming arena; and Lionsgate’s successful foray into the video game business, such as the John Wick immersive VR experience.