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April 14, 2008
Dennis Wharton
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Rehr Delivers Opening Keynote Address at NAB Show

LAS VEGAS, NV -- NAB President and CEO David K. Rehr delivered the opening keynote address at the 2008 NAB Show in Las Vegas today. Below is a transcript of his prepared remarks.

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I'm delighted to see everyone.

I hope you are enjoying the NAB Show - this year it seems we have more to see than ever before.

Some people might think that, as head of the National Association of Broadcasters, I might not like that upstart YouTube.

The truth is - I am intrigued by YouTube.

It's funny. It's offbeat. It's free.

I mean, where else would you find things like this?

I think we can all agree, what you find on YouTube is a different world - It certainly is a different world for me.

And it raises this question for radio and TV broadcasting.

Because of YouTube, because of the internet, because of cell phones and iPods …is our model broken?

Has technology and cultural change made us no longer relevant?

Look at this.

If you go to YouTube's Web site, it says, "YouTube-Broadcast Yourself."

They use the word "broadcast."

They obviously don't think the word is outdated… or tired… or irrelevant.

But the question is, do we?

We know that the world has changed.

Consumers have more options than ever before.

The media landscape is rapidly changing.

We're being buffeted by forces larger than our industry.

Some in the business are a bit disoriented.

Some are overwhelmed by the changes taking place.

Frankly, some are not optimistic about broadcasting's future.

I can tell you, serving as president of the NAB is the most exciting job I've ever had.

I love it.

Every morning there is a new challenge and a new opportunity ahead.

But broadcasters… and you know this, broadcasters can be a bit of a cynical bunch.

And I'm afraid, that some people in this business have been staring so long at the door that's closing … they haven't seen the new door that's opening. The digital door.

If we don't believe in ourselves, how do we promote our future?

How do we promote our business and our valuable content?

Let me start today by talking about what is happening in the radio business.

This article appeared in BusinessWeek earlier this year … … by an interesting writer and blogger named Jon Fine.

The headline reads "Requiem for Old-Time Radio."

He quotes a media analyst who bluntly says, "The model is broken."

With almost bittersweet regret, Mr. Fine writes, "You loved radio for opening up a world; you hated it for falling behind what was actually going on."

He recalls radio with fondness.

He says, "I recall huddling with it long past bedtime, the volume set low, hoping to hear something I loved… You're in bed with the lights out, the music and the DJ's voice going straight into your brain, the images created are yours alone."

Ladies and gentlemen, that is romance... that's longing... that is a connection.

Listeners still want what they've always wanted.

Technology hasn't changed that- it has just changed the devices of delivery.

This is not to diminish the challenges or uncertainty of the radio business.

In fact, I think one thing that's changed is that many in the industry have been so worn down by the battles and buffeting, that they themselves have forgotten the magic of radio.

But we have not forgotten.

Last year, NAB commissioned a branding study on radio.

And this began with a very thorough research project.

We talked to everyone. We fielded a dozen consumer focus groups and interviewed over 5,000 Americans - young and old, all across the country.

And what we learned was fascinating and inspiring.

Some of it is no surprise, at least to most of us.

Radio remains relevant.

The first thing we learned: nearly everyone said they rely heavily on radio for the information and entertainment they want or need every day.

Remember this from the movie, Sleepless in Seattle?

That is the magic of radio.

For years, we've been saying local, local, local.

And that's true, but we have a new wrinkle.

We also learned from these consumers that being local, in and of itself, is not what defines radio's value.

It's the accessibility and the connection with radio personalities.

And it's being everywhere and available to everyone.

A radio is not a jukebox.

If you're listening to radio, you want to hear a human voice sharing that same moment in time that you are.

There is power in that personal bond.

A CD doesn't have that connection.

An iPod doesn't have it.

No, our model is not broken.

In fact, when you look at Arbitron data, what you find is that in a world of ever-growing choices, radio continues to add millions of listeners each year.

Last March, it was estimated that 232 million people listen to radio in a given week.

This March that estimation is up 3 million people …to 235 million.

No, radio's business model is NOT broken.

But, we do have challenges and we have to address them.

We learned from our research that many listeners acknowledge that they take radio for granted precisely because it's so pervasive.

The public's love of radio is still there, they just need to be reminded of it.

We need to reignite that passion.

In anticipation of radio's centennial, we launched a major effort at the NAB Radio Show last fall to reignite the public's passion with radio.

The initiative is called Radio 2020 - 2020 being the centennial celebration of radio, and also representing the clear vision we have for our future.

NAB, working with our industry partners, intends to reposition radio in the public's mind.

First, technology.

We are going to make sure that radio is incorporated on every new gadget, everywhere-especially mobile, hand-held devices.

Second, the survey found that people want new, unique content.

They want niche channels.

This brings me to the great possibilities of HD radio.

There are those who said HD radio would never make it-too expensive, too few stations, too this, too that.

That attitude is changing.

Ford, Mercedes, Volvo and BMW are just a few automakers that have made major announcements about offering HD radio in their vehicles.

And radio stations are stepping up to offer the programming to support new multicast channels of HD Radio.

We still have a lot of work to do on this, but we are certainly headed in the right direction.

Third, we have to build for our future.

Armed with what we learned from consumers in this survey - and with what we know about our business and the changing landscape - we have to act now to ensure radio prospers well into the next century.

Fourth, we must reignite our consumers.

We need to remind them why they love radio.

With Radio 2020, we are reminding people:

  • That radio is accessible and everywhere they are.
  • That it's simple and convenient to use- there is no CD to change, nothing to download, nothing to subscribe to, no playlist to build and nothing to recharge.
  • That it's available to everyone, regardless of their education or economic status. Radio is a great equalizer, a great unifier.
  • It reaches out to you no matter what your status or station in life.

Ladies and gentlemen, as aggressive local broadcasters we are going to make radio new again.

We will be reinvigorated.

We will remind our listeners, and ourselves, of the value of this great medium.

The campaign is called 'Radio Heard Here' and you'll hear more about it at the Radio Luncheon tomorrow.

And it's going to be great.

Now, let me turn to television.

I know for many of you, it's been a tough environment.

We know there are challenges.

There are immense changes happening in television broadcasting.

But remember, television stations and networks are leading the digital revolution.

This may be the last opportunity I have to speak with many of you before full-power television stops broadcasting in analog.

It is truly an end of an era.

And it's fitting that we should be a little nostalgic about that.

This is like leaving a home that we have lived in happily for many years, a home we've grown up in - but now grown out of.

It is time for us to move on. So we close the door.

On February 17, 2009, as TV's old analog signal ends and we begin our digital future, one door closes…but another opens.

It's the door to a new life. A bigger and brighter, more exciting life.

It's a new future and an explosion of possibilities.

In the process, TV screens in nearly 20 million households currently receiving free-over-the-air signals will stop receiving that signal.

But they'll start receiving a better one.

The transition to DTV is NAB's highest television priority.

Every broadcast network and television station is participating in a campaign that includes on-air, online and various media and grassroots initiatives.

Television stations, networks and NAB are making a billion dollar commitment to DTV transition education.

We are working together in an unprecedented effort to ensure every American is aware of the transition and knows how to take action.

We anticipate that each household will be exposed to a DTV message at least 642 times before February.

Spots like this one are running in every market around the country.

We will leave no TV set behind.

And many of us believe there will be a renaissance of over the air viewing with crystal clear pictures, phenomenal sound and more channels and services.

And it's free - the way TV should be.

Not to mention, HDTV - the jewel of digital broadcasting.

The clarity of HD television is truly spectacular.

This is by far the greatest step forward in television technology since color TV was introduced.

And the benefits are amazing. America will be wowed.

A moment ago, I mentioned the explosion of possibilities that will result from the DTV transition, so let me say a bit more about the door that is opening.

NAB is aggressively moving to get digital TV on cell phones, iPods, TV screens in cars, portable video players, laptop computers and more.

That's live TV on upwards of 345 million devices.

That's your favorite morning show live on your handheld device on the bus to work.

That's the baseball game keeping your boys quiet in the back seat of the car.

That's not missing a college basketball game during March Madness, because you can catch it on your cell phone.

By 2012, only four years away, three years after the transition itself, broadcast television could earn an estimated additional $2 billion a year in revenues from mobile video alone.

But first, we have to get a single industry standard adopted and the technology deployed.

NAB is moving full steam ahead.

We've put dollars into action with the Open Mobile Video Coalition and the NAB's technology advocacy program, FASTROAD.

Both of these efforts are committed to move television beyond the family room to everywhere viewers are.

We are not looking back.

We need your help to accelerate all of our actions on the DTV transition because we're nearing the end and the beginning on February 17, 2009.

We are aggressively moving forward.

The TV broadcasting model still works.

And we have just begun to explore the possibilities of the Internet.

The majority of U.S. homes have a broadband connection.

An increasing number of consumers are watching TV shows online.

There are great new revenue opportunities to be seized.

And many of our stations and networks are already taking advantage of this.

As I heard someone in our business say recently, we must begin to make the Internet part of our DNA.

There is an explosion of content out there and we have to be smart and nimble about how we deliver it to our consumers.

After all, broadcasters' content is still the best.

As we move into the digital future, there will only be more possibilities… more opportunities… more revenue streams on the horizon.

Just look around at the Show this week.

Look at all of the exciting ways our exhibitors are bringing content to life.

This is an exciting time to be in the broadcasting business.

Today, I have chosen to talk to you about the future of broadcasting, but I don't want to ignore the aggressive advocacy efforts taking place on your behalf in Washington, D.C.

As you know, we have a team of government relations advocates and legal professionals that are addressing more issues than ever on Capitol Hill and at the FCC.

We have a board of directors that is more engaged than ever.

Let me give you just the highlights from Washington.

Performance Tax -

Nearly 200 members of Congress are standing with us against a performance tax on local radio.

DTV Transition -

The FCC adopted NAB's proposed DTV consumer education plan, giving stations the flexibility they need to reach consumers everywhere they are.

XM - Sirius Merger -

Twelve state attorneys general and more than 80 members of Congress have written the FCC that the XM - Sirius merger is not in the public interest.

The Justice Department's notion that the two companies do not compete is simply absurd. If combined, these two companies will control more spectrum than the entire FM dial.... Think about that for a minute...

White Spaces -

Portable, unlicensed devices have malfunctioned three times in FCC laboratory testing. Now we know, if these devices can't work in pristine lab conditions, they won't work in the real world - which means interference on televisions across the country that can not be traced or stopped.

Localism -

More than 1,000 broadcasters and their public service partners have written to the FCC to showcase station's localism efforts. We're working to make sure that the Commission does not place unnecessary requirements on broadcasters that would actually hamper stations' efforts to serve their local communities.

Rest assured, we are advocating on your behalf, and we have the will and perseverance to succeed.

But in truth, we could win every battle in Washington and it wouldn't make a bit of difference if we - you, me and fellow broadcasters - don't believe in our own future.

We must believe in it. We must act upon it. We must celebrate it.

As some of you know, I have four young children.

And my youngest son, who is 5, is fascinated by space travel; in fact, he dresses up like a Star Wars storm trooper nearly every day...

But recently this made me think - when astronauts leave our atmosphere they are knocked around by tremendous G-forces before they enter space.

That is sort of what broadcasting is feeling right now.

We are between the realms.

Not quite out of one realm and not quite into the other.

And that can be an uncertain, bone-rattling, teeth-jarring ride.

But I have no doubt that we will pass through the turbulence.

We can not let up on the throttle.

We can not doubt.

Because to truly reap the benefits of the digital age, we must move forward without looking back.

This is an opportunity to reinvent our business.

But we can't accomplish change without hope and a renewed spirit.

We must embrace our digital future and all the possibilities that come with it.

We must aggressively promote this great broadcast medium of the future.

And if we believe in broadcasting...if we believe in ourselves...and if we believe in our future…then we will prosper in the new digital era.

Thank you. God bless you and God bless America.

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About the 2008 NAB Show
The NAB Show will take place April 11 - 17, 2008 in Las Vegas (exhibits open April 14). It is the world's largest electronic media show covering filmed entertainment and the development, management and delivery of content across all mediums. Complete details are available at

About NAB
The National Association of Broadcasters is a trade association that advocates on behalf of more than 8,300 free, local radio and television stations and also broadcast networks before Congress, the Federal Communications Commission and the Courts. Information about NAB can be found at


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