By Holland Cooke
LAS VEGAS — At Tuesday’s Radio Luncheon, NAB Crystal Award Winners were announced. And the winners are: KMOX, St. Louis; WREW-FM, Cincinnati; KRMG-FM, Tulsa; WTOP-FM, Washington; WBLS-FM, New York; WUBE-FM, Cincinnati; WDNS-FM, Bowling Green, KY; WYCT-FM, Pensacola; WHUR-FM, Washington; and WZUS-FM, Decatur, IL.
Also at the luncheon, we heard from jocular Scott Burnell, Ford Motor Company Global Lead for Business Development and Partner Management; or as he explained his job description: “I play with apps.”
“We create habits.”
“People build their habits outside the vehicle,” he explained, “and we help them bring them into the vehicle,” via new-tech dashboards.
“I do not own a radio,” Burnell confessed, reminding us of Edison Research “Infinite Dial” survey data estimating that AM/FM radio is now absent from 32% of homes. So if the smartphone is where, increasingly, audio is consumed, make that dashboard emulate the smartphone.
Broadcasters’ advantage on this crowded playing field? “You’ve got people. USE them!” Burnell, a Michigander, alluded to legendary Voice of The Detroit Tigers Ernie Harwell, and to Howard Stern (“people pay $15.99 a month to hear him!”). Why? Because “people want someone they trust” to tell them what’s happening. Thus the advantage stations with personalities will continue to enjoy over robotic-sounding competitors.
Tearfully, Deliliah explained her syndicated 7-to-midnight advice and comfort show as “I listen, I watch, I experience, then I try to weave together a story.”
She told us “I never felt that being a woman held me back in radio;” and Delilah believes “we’ve got the most vital, alive, wonderful medium in the world. It’s the most-listened-to medium. It always has been, always will be.”
“If you’re standing still, you’re actually falling behind.”
As a commissioner, Ajit Pai was a familiar face, and a voice conspicuously supportive of radio, at previous NAB Shows and NAB/RAB Radio Shows. Now keynoting for his first time as FCC Chairman, he draws a big crowd…SO big that I got shut-out by the overflow at his session at January’s Consumer Electronics Show. Accordingly, your dutiful correspondent arrived an hour early – I was first in line – and as amused Pai arrived and greeted me, he quipped “I hope I’ll be worth it.”
By standing ovation, the audience clearly thought so. Many broadcasters were irked by what they regarded as former Chairman Tom Wheeler’s emphasis on broadband; so Pai – who launched the AM Revitalization effort – was among friends at NAB Show.
“I remain fundamentally optimistic about the future of broadcasting,” because of the “localism, diversity, and public service” that distinguishes diligent broadcasters.
“The last thing any industry needs is outdated rules standing in the way.”
Interrupted by frequent applause, Pai vowed to “dramatically cut red tape,” saying “broadcasting and broadcasters will not be a speed bump,” and promising “rules that match the reality of 2017.”
Among them, modifications to the Main Studio Rule that requires stations to maintain a physical presence in their markets. Noting that “an online public file is much more accessible” than hard copy that a concerned listener would have to come to the station to read, the Chairman believes in new rules “without sacrificing transparency or access by the public.” And without getting specific, he spoke of “modernizing EEO recruiting rules.”
AM Revitalization Update
Since Pai made this a priority, “more than 25% of AM stations” added FM translators; and he seemed to be making news telling us that a new translator auction window for class C & D stations will open “this summer.”
“I hope there will be a new spirit of cooperation between us.”
With a gentler manner than his predecessor, the Chairman asked that broadcasters “keep an open mind and apply a presumption of good faith in the decisions we make.”
To that point, Pai recalled the recent retirement of legendary Voice of The Dodgers Vin Scully: “The outpouring of admiration was remarkable. THAT is the power of broadcasting.” And he reckons that
“the secret of Scully’s success is knowing when to get out the way,” as when Scully allowed “1 minute and 10 seconds of absolute silence” after Kirk Gibson’s earth-shaking World Series homer. Similarly, Pai offered, just…listening…is “sound advice for a regulator too.”
“If you had a web site with no publishing cycle – you get something and you just put-it-up – you’d beat everybody.”
Also appearing at the NAB Show: TMZ creator Harvey Levin, who figured “the last thing TV needed was a sixth ‘Entertainment Tonight.’” He says “we stripped-away” the set, anchors, and other trappings of traditional TV shows, and just talked to reporters in the office. “It works because it’s real. If we started out as a TV show, we probably would’ve failed.”
Observing how “people are producing entertainment and information” online, Levin reckons that “eventually all that stuff is going to be in one big menu.”
Look for more here tomorrow, and follow my real-time convention Tweets @HollandCooke. And ICYMI, my Monday notes from the NAB Show are here.
Holland Cooke (HollandCooke.com) is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet; and he covers industry conferences for TALKERS. Meet HC at Talkers 2017: A New Era June 2 in New York City.