By Holland Cooke
LAS VEGAS — FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler recalled his boyhood, listening to his transistor radio, on his bike, humming newspapers onto lawns along his route. And he says we still have his ear at work: “I keep the radio on in my office all day long.”
“I’m an NPR guy,” Wheeler smiled; telling us he also has SiriusXM in-car, for “72, The Broadway Channel. I love Broadway music!” And – segueing to the topic of AM radio – he added, “If an AM station were to go all-Broadway, I’d listen to that too”
“The question,” the Chief Commish shrugged, “ is whether those managing technology will change with it.” Meantime, he reports – and several of my clients confirm – that the FCC is briskly turning around AM stations’ translator applications: “Since we opened the window, we have processed over 500 ‘new stations.”
And I was pleased to hear him use that term. WE-inside-the-box think “translators.” To THEM — listeners, who commit 80%+ of Time Spent Listening on FM – these 250-watt simulcasts are…FM…stations.
Can you hear me now?
Interviewer and former NAB TV Board chair Marci Burdick asked about Wheeler using his bully pulpit to call-out carriers and smartphone makers who have yet to light up sleeper FM chips, the NextRadio initiative. He’s not inclined to jawbone, saying, “I chuckle at people who say ‘The government has got to stay out of our business…except for this one thing.’”
Implying that consumers would favor more-fully-featured phones, he noted that “mobile carriers [are] increasingly beginning to offer it and that’s good….I think the competition is working.”
“The future of radio?”
When Burdick asked, Wheeler compared digital newcomers to AM/FM radio, “something that is ultimately portable and that is free? With criteria like that, never sell them short.”
Broadcasters sufficiently staffed, take note of a digital opportunity: “If there’s a place where the Internet has fallen down, it’s [delivering] ultra-local [content].”
But WAIT…there’s MORE.
As I settle-into a 17”-wide seat on my pre-dawn flight home to Rhode Island, I’m still compiling audio, video, pictures and graphics, and news-you-can-use from the NAB Show. Hit www.HollandCooke.com for a special page.
And ICYMI, here are this week’s TALKERS/RadioInfo updates:
- My notes from Sunday’s RAIN Summit West are here.
- My Monday NAB Show report is here.
- My Tuesday column is here.
Holland Cooke is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke; and meet HC at TALKERS 2016: Bridging the Generations on Friday, May 20 at Hofstra University, where he will present “Talk Media: The Next Generation.”