In Vegas, Broadcasters Go All In With AffiliatesAt 2012 NAB meetings, talk is about facing challenges from Washington, along with digital media and local competition 4/23/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern
As the National Association of
Broadcasters show progressed in Las
Vegas last week, the main source of
irritation for broadcast attendees switched
from the cab lines at the Encore and the Bellagio
to a considerably more onerous issue:
the FCC’s push to make TV stations put their
public files, detailing on-the-air political advertising,
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has
been very clear in his intent for this to happen,
and happen fast. “It’s the 21st century.
I call it common sense,” Genachowski told
broadcasters during an NAB address April 16
in a tone that some felt was a bit
Multiple local broadcasters
suggested the mandate is coming
from the White House,
which is said to be displeased
with the unchecked Super PAC
riches flowing to TV stations.
On its face, it’s not hard to see
the chairman’s logic: If your local
Department of Motor Vehicles
has been able to convert its
records to digital, a TV station—
a paragon of progressive digital
technology—should be expected
to do so as well. The idea of a
congressional hopeful’s intern
photocopying dog-eared documents in a TV station’s musty basement
hardly paints the picture of cutting-edge local media.
Yet broadcasters are gravely concerned about doing so. For starters,
they would rather spend the money required for the interminable
data entry involved with such a project on their newsgathering. To
that argument, Genachowski said it’s a “nominal” cost for stations, and
one that will save money in the long run. “In a world that is increasingly
going digital, why have a special exemption for broadcasters?”
he wondered aloud.
Broadcasters say the FCC has not been receptive to calls for a compromise.
Alan Frank, president and CEO of Post-Newsweek, said after
Genachowski’s presentation that the transferring process sought by the
FCC, which would include
dozens of politicians and a
dizzying array of different
advertising rates and dayparts
and programs at each
station, would only serve
to confuse people. “It will
create more miscommunication
More concerning for stations
is sharing the minute
details about their ad rates
up and down the programming
grid for all the world,
including their competitors,
“Have my competition see
what I charge in my 6 p.m.
news?” said one station general
manager who asked not
to be named. “It’s destructive.
All the Rage
The public file matter was a hot topic of discussion in the various
affiliate board and body meetings in Las Vegas, with Gordon Smith,
NAB president and CEO, pledging to have stations’ backs. “We are
adamantly opposed,” said Bill Hoffman, chairman of the ABC affiliates
board. “We don’t see the viewer benefit at all.”
Most broadcasters believe they would have a strong case in the
courts, which is where the public file matter looks to be headed.
They hope it remains tied up in litigation at least until Genachowski
departs the FCC.
But for now, it is, in the words of one Fox affiliate executive, “a
major pain in the ass” at a time when business, and affiliate relations,
are otherwise in a good place. “What other industry has to put its
competitive rates online?” asked another fired-up Fox station exec.
“It could do irreparable harm to broadcasters.”
The public file issue aside, it was a positive week in Vegas, with the
affiliate board, and affiliate body, meetings mostly showing a welcome
harmony between the stations and their partner networks. An overview
of the meetings follows.