The NAB today announced that it has selected Gordon Smith, a former Republican Senator from Oregon, as its new President. He succeeds David Rehr, who left the NAB last Spring. Smith has been practicing law in Washington since leaving the Senate after being defeated in his reelection bid in the 2008 election. While in the Senate, he served on the Commerce Committee that oversees the FCC. From a quick on-line search, it appears that he was active in the push for the "broadcast flag" sought by broadcast program producers to identify copyrighted video content broadcast by digital television stations. Other than his Congressional background, it does not appear that he has other direct broadcast experience. I would be interested in any knowledge that readers of this blog have about other connections he may have to the broadcast media and any past positions that he has taken on broadcast issues.
Having someone with experience on Capitol Hill was clearly crucial to the NAB given how many controversial issues broadcasters are now facing from Congress and from the FCC. When David Rehr departed, we wrote about the many issues facing the NAB, most of which are still pending. These include:
- The potential broadcast performance royalty - i.e. the recording industry's attempts to, for the first time, impose a sound recording royalty on broadcasters for their over-the-air transmission of music
- The FCC’s implementation of their White Areas order allowing wireless users to use parts of the TV spectrum – and the appeals and other attempts to overturn or modify that decision
- The reauthorization of SHVERA, to continue to allow satellite companies to beam local television signals into local markets – where parties are raising all sorts of extraneous issues about carriage rights and retransmission consent, possible changes in TV market boundaries, and changes in the rights of satellite carriers to import distant signals.
- The FCC’s localism proceeding, which could impose new obligations on broadcasters at a time when broadcast competition has never been so intense - when the marketplace should dictate how broadcasters best serve their communities
- Potential Congressional effort to bring back the Fairness Doctrine in some form or another
- A number of FCC proceedings that could affect new methods of advertising meant to combat technological changes – like embedded advertising and product placement that are meant to partially overcome the effects of DVRs.
- Congressional attempts to regulate advertising and programing – including potential efforts to restrict prescription drug ads, ED treatments, violent programming and programming that promotes unhealthy foods
- FCC attempts to reign in technical changes in FM stations to allow them to take steps to increase power and to move into larger markets
- Congressional moves to remove restrictions on LPFM stations on channels that are third-adjacent to full power facilities – and to potentially give these new stations rights to replace existing FM translators
With all these issues pending, it seems imperative to have a new head to give direction to the NAB and serve as the face of broadcasters in Washington. Smith, while a Republican, had the reputation as being a moderate on many issues, and the ability to reach across the political aisles. That will be essential in the coming months as the many issues affecting broadcasters are considered. We look forward to Smith's appearance at the NAB Radio Show next week and to hearing his views on the issues. And we look forward to his role in leading the industry forward as it faces so many regulatory and technological issues.