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FCC Chairman tells NAB that “business is better,” but your public files are going online

The National Association of Broadcasters annual show and convention just started in Las Vegas, bringing together nearly every sector of the broadcast industry to show off new products, discuss trends and hob nob. Unfortunately, the Radio Survivor travel budget doesn’t yet cover more than cab fare across town, so we don’t have a correspondent on the ground in Vegas. But, like the Consumer Electronics Show, we’re watching the reports from NAB as they come across the wire, searching for radio-related news.

These days radio tends to be overshadowed by television, video and wireless broadband technology, but it is far from left out altogether. Emmis Communications, Intel and iBiquity were scheduled to show off their new prototype HD Radio-enabled smartphone on Monday, but as of 11 PM EDT I haven’t heard any additional news about the unveiling.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski made his annual address on Monday and his overall message was that the broadcast industry’s fortunes are looking good. In particular he emphasized that the broadcasters who see themselves as being in the content creation business have a great many opportunities to take advantage of internet and mobile platforms alongside broadcast. Genachowski told broadcasters that too many stations are missing out, explaining,

“Many stations don’t have local news and content-creation operations that they can leverage over multiple broadband platforms; and on a percentage basis that’s also particularly true in the larger markets. The economics are the economics.

Genachowski also observed that “radio listening remains robust,” noting that,

“more than 90 percent of Americans listen to the radio weekly. And even with the many new digital sources of audio, radio ad revenue is up 9% since 2009.”

He also did a little shilling for the Obama administration by pointing out how advertising from the auto industry has grown strongly across the broadcast industry. Genachowski asked broadcasters to, “imagine the effect on broadcasters if the administration hadn’t prevented the collapse of the American auto industry.”

Closing out his address Genachowski made a pitch for broadcaster’s public inspection files to move out of the file cabinet and online, something we’ve covered here at Radio Survivor. He took on opponents of online public files by referencing a litany of editorials and other comments in support of the FCC’s proposal. Genachowski quoted a statement from a group of journalism school deans, who said

“Broadcast news organizations depend on, and consistently call for, robust open-record regimes for the institutions they cover; it seems hypocritical for broadcasters to oppose applying the same principle to themselves.”

He also said

“Bloomberg View looked at the burden and jobs arguments that have been made by opponents of online disclosure and concluded that ‘neither is credible.’ The New Republic examined broadcasters’ position and concluded: ‘the arguments they offer are so flimsy they collapse on inspection.'”

That signals pretty clearly that Genachowski’s FCC seems pretty intent on pressing forward with having broadcasters move their public files online, just as he encourages them to make the most of digital platforms in other ways.

Many broadcasters in the audience did not receive Genachowsi’s remarks too warmly, and were especially annoyed that he didn’t take questions. They were particularly miffed to hear that the Commission doesn’t seem to be backing down on online public files.

I guess when you’re FCC Chair, you don’t come to NAB to party and make friends. Some broadcasters will be disappointed that what happens in Vegas doesn’t necessarily stay in Vegas.


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