Gordon Smith, NAB president and CEO, issued a call to arms to NAB attendees in Vegas to defend broadcasters' rights in their own markets as the association fights the good fight in Washington. In his opening address, Smith said the battles with the telecommunications industry over spectrum, among other pressing issues, won't subside any time soon.
"They want us out of this game," he said. "We can't let down our guard."
Smith was introduced by Teri Hatcher, star of Desperate Housewives. His address referenced everything from Churchill to Emerson to the Book of Proverbs, but it was Dickens that was perhaps the most pertinent. "It's the best of times, it's the worst of times," he said. "It's the best of times because even today, broadcast radio and TV are where the ears and eyeballs are...But naysayers might say we're in the worst of times, because competition for our audience is relentless."
Smith mentioned how the technology community successfully used their metaphorical megaphone to take the fight over SOPA and PIPA from "Thou shalt not steal" to "Do not censor the internet."
"The technology community, the Googles and Wikis, used their medium just as we did -- to create a powerful megaphone to change forever how battles are won, or lost, inside the Beltway," he said. "Like us, they used every tool at their disposal to sway public opinion. They changed the debate."
Smith urged the broadcast community to work in unison, and use their own vast media, to protect their interests in Washington. "On the TV front, this year we worked successfully with our friends in Congress to shape a piece of spectrum legislation that allows television stations to participate in a voluntary auction, but ensures that those not participating are held harmless," he said. "Working in unity -- small and large market stations, networks and affiliates -- together with radio stations across the country, we averted a spectrum grab from misguided friends who would have you believe that broadcasting is yesterday's technology."
"Ladies and gentlemen, NAB is back," Smith added. "And we are keeping our eyes on the future."
It was music to the ears of many influential broadcasters in the room. "I think Gordon's industry leadership really resonated with the crowd today," said David Barrett, president and CEO of Hearst Television. "His grasp of the challenges facing us, and his optimism for the future, was inspiring to people in the room."
James Yager, CEO of Barrington Broadcasting, echoed Barrett. "It was very, very well thought out, and right to the point," said Yager. "Gordon covered all the right issues. We continue to be glad he's our leader."