Calling for a more offensive stance from broadcasters, NAB President David Rehr urged TV stations to demand retrans fees from multi-channel distributors, and revenue sharing from networks, while pushing content onto new platforms like cell phones, iPods and laptops.
Broadcasters should push for more competition among cable, satellite and telephone companies, said David Rehr, president of the National Association of Broadcasters, who clearly has his eye on the new revenue streams such a vibrant distribution marketplace can provide local TV stations. At a speech that opened the NAB convention in Las Vegas Monday, Rehr listed stations’ demand to be compensated for their programming as part of a more aggressive stance toward the onslaught of competition broadcasters have faced from new media in recent years.
To be a competitive player in multi-channel TV distribution, telephone companies “will have to offer local content,” Rehr said. “Local content is us, and we will be compensated for that.” Insistence on compensation forms one of the five pillars of an effort to nudge the broadcasting industry out of the defensive stance it has held for years into an offensive one. “Broadcasting has been defensive in its thinking for too long,” Rehr said. “We can transform that mentality, and we can start today.”
A big part of the push for compensation centers on cable operators, who have put up the most resistance, but who themselves face a growing barrage of competition from satellite and phone companies. These rivals “already recognize that they must compensate broadcasters,” Rehr said, and “eventually, so must cable, especially as its own competitive position weakens. Frankly, it is only a matter of time.”
In addition to demanding compensation, broadcasters must exploit all those new technologies vying for the audience by “moving quickly to increase the number of distribution channels and platforms for our content,” Rehr said. “Our future is a broadcast signal on every gadget—cell phones, laptops, PDAs and of course, multi-channels of DTV and digital radio.”
What’s more, the push to exploit new technologies includes revenue sharing among networks and their affiliates, Rehr said. “In addition to the term, ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¹Ã…â€œmust carry,’ we will hear the term, ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¹Ã…â€œmust share,’ ” he said. “Networks and local affiliates must share in new revenue streams, as they are partners in building brands and creating value. This will also help ensure the continued viability of the invaluable network/affiliate relationship.”
While working to exploit new media, broadcasters must begin immediately to promote the benefits of their own new technology: digital TV. “We must show consumers the exciting possibilities of digital television ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦ not when the conversion is upon us, but right now, he said. Promising a “comprehensive program” to educate the public, Rehr said broadcasters can’t leave this job to Congress, their competitors or “the guy who sells televisions at Best Buy.” The move to an offensive stance must also extend to the battle over indecency regulation, Rehr said, announcing a $300 million campaign, funded jointly by broadcasters, cable, movie producers and TV set manufacturers, to educate consumers about parental controls. “We need to reframe the debate away from the stray, indecent slip-up,” he said, while explaining to parents “that they have total power, right now, to control all TV programs in their homes.”
Broadcasters need better guidelines on what’s deemed indecent government regulators, Rehr continued, and they must be careful about how they use the First Amendment in their fight to avoid censorship. “Broadcasters feel strongly about free speech and we will defend it whole-heartedly,” he said,” but no one should imply that protecting the First Amendment is tantamount to promoting the right to be obscene.”
Finally, Rehr repeated his call to reposition NAB’s government relations functions away from lobbying to advocacy, a word that “conveys positive offense in framing the debate, and thus the future. “It is only a change in wording,” he said, “but it reflects a larger change in attitude.”