NAB’s Smith Rejuvenates Broadcast Lobby

Urges industry to 'use all the tools'

Gordon Smith, the former Senator from Oregon who took leadership of the National Association of Broadcasters more than two years ago, is putting the clout back in the broadcast lobby.

In a speech before thousands of broadcasters, Smith took what has typically been an address on the state of the radio and TV businesses and turned it into a rallying cry for policy activism in the halls of Congress and at the Federal Communications Commission.

His remarks, in which he declared “NAB is back,” opened up the industry’s annual conference in Las Vegas, where station executives shop for broadcast equipment and software.

“In that room there was an overwhelming appreciation that we’ve dodged two very big bullets,” Smith told a group of reporters following his address. “My job is to keep us vigilant that the fights are ongoing and the threats keep coming.”

Under Smith, broadcasters managed to make sure that radio stations did not have to pay an additional tax on music played on the radio. More recently, a new law authorizing the FCC to hold spectrum  auctions includes provisions to protect broadcast spectrum.

The industry is still under attack from a wireless industry that sees the FCC’s spectrum auctions as merely a “down payment” for more spectrum and from cable and satellite TV companies that are lobbying hard for retransmission consent reform.

“The fights seem to keep coming and the promise I made to our industry today was that we’ll continue to use all the tools available to us,” he said.

Driving that point home to his audience, Smith compared the Internet community’s successful blackout that stopped proposed online copyright legislation from advancing in Congress to the broadcast lobby.

“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,” Smith said. “Like us, they used every tool at their disposal to sway public opinion. They changed the debate.”

And if Smith has his way, the broadcasters can change the debate, too.