With broadcasters in town to press the flesh and their issues with members of Congress —the National Association of Broadcasters State Leadership Conference fly-in was this week— House members took to the floor Thursday evening (Feb. 26) to praise their local TV and radio stations for everything from preserving the First Amendment and raising money for charity to being the first informers in times of emergency and carrying FNL football (as in the Friday Night Lights-type high school games that are a near obsession in the Lone Star State).
Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) started off the praise-a-thon, followed by Reps. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.); Ted Poe (R-Tex.) David Cicilline (D-R.I.); and Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.).
"For decades broadcasters have been the first ones to respond to disasters and emergencies," Cramer said, and have "saved numerous lives." He said broadcasters had played a "vital role" in the quality of life in communities around the country.
He pointed out that almost 600 broadcasters had come to the Hill this week to tell their story of service, a message Cramer had clearly gotten, and echoed. He said there was "a vibrant, thriving system of local broadcasting in this country."
Rep. Crawford, himself a former farm broadcaster and news anchor, said it was an honor to advocate on behalf of them. He said he knew firsthand their importance, not only in times of distress. He pointed to the "value proposition" broadcasters bring to the state economy. "Broadcasters contribute $9.83 billion to our state's GDP and provided roughly 22,000 jobs."
Crawford said it was important for Congress to support broadcasters "who do so much for their regions and communities." Asked by Cramer to talk about why broadcasting was so important, he said reliability and cost, as in free.
Crawford talked about broadcasters integrating new media into their business. He said broadcasting was innovative and "not a static business model," an issue NAB has been trying to get across both to members and the FCC as it plans to reclaim broadcast spectrum for wireless broadband.
Rep. Poe put an emphasis on "local." He lives in Hurricane Alley on the Gulf Coast and cited five hurricanes that have hit his district since he has been in office. He said that when the power goes out, the radio and TV stations still on the air are "very vital" for public safety information.
Poe also talked about the Amber alert program started by Texas broadcasters that to date has led to the recovery of 296 missing children.
Poe said he did not know how much of a priority it was in the Dakotas, but "We like high school football in Texas... Let's be specific, on Friday night, everybody is playing football at the high schools, and our local broadcasters are out there at the stadiums."
Democratic Rep. Cicilline said he wanted to make sure people didn't think broadcasters were just important in the Midwest. He cited a telethon that raised $85,000 for a local shelter, and WJR-TV Providence's simulcast of its newscast on radio after Hurricane Irene.
Rep. Farenthold, a former broadcaster radio broadcasters, said he saw a resurgence in broadcasting, and more local programming. He said that in times of emergency no one comes to the aid of a community like local broadcasters, who will suspend regular programming and be the first source of information.
He said that while Weather channel may bring in a truck and send in Jim Cantore, the local broadcaster is the galoshes on the ground, as it were. "We have Dale Nelson in Corpus Christie who has been doing the weather on our NBC affiliate. We jokingly call him 'Dead Wrong Dale' (he is actually a multiple award-winning meteorologist for KRIS-TVV Corpus Christi). What other profession can you be in besides being a TV meteorologist and get it wrong half the time and still keep a job. But Dale knows the community and he gets it right a while lot more than he gets it wrong, we just like to rib him. But he knows the places that are going to flood. He knows the neighborhoods that are most susceptible to damage, and those out of town reporters don't. The members of the media in local broadcasting are members of the community and they improve the lives of everyone in the community."