JWR Articles: Commentary - NAB Show 2019 - Opening (Featured speaker: Gordon H. Smith) - April 10, 2019
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NAB Show 2019 - Opening

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The way forward: interactive and immersive

The Show Opening—with a trio of screens filling the Main Stage backdrop—was emceed with vigour and charm by Caroline Beasley (CEO Beasley Broadcast Group and NAB Joint Board Chair (an odd designation in this era of cannabis legalization…).

But prior to the first spoken words, a comely performer from Cirque du Soleil (not in short supply here in Las Vegas), gave the overflow crowd a fine example of exemplary hula-hoop techniques.

As is the custom, the first major speech (after sponsor representative Lynn Comp from Intel assured the assemblage that “visual cloud is the future”), NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith delivered his State of the Broadcast Industry Address almost 10 years to the day that the former US Senator began his tenure (remarking that losing his bid for re-election in Oregon made the career switch possible) as the boss.

As always, Smith quite rightly stressed the importance of television and radio broadcasters in providing over-the-air community content—local-centric and virtually the only form of mass communication left when major calamities send the digital world packing. A plea was reiterated for the cellphone makers—notably Apple: the company steadfastly refuses—to insert a built-in chip to their products, giving everyone free access to their local broadcasters rather than the current method of having to attach a separate piece of hardware to smartphones in order to see/listen to virtually any station in the world.

Smith’s fix-this prescription was simplicity itself:

  • Modernize long-outdated broadcaster regulations to level the playing field.
  • Increase regulations on BigTech from stifling local radio and TV broadcasters and their specialized content.

Noting it was now the beginning of another election cycle, the Republican bureaucrat didn’t offer a word as whether or not these ideas would have any hope of succeeding if the incumbent was to be re-elected.

Time will tell.

Next up, veteran radio supporter, broadcaster and writer, Tom Taylor, was presented with this year’s Spirit of Broadcasting Award. During his brief remarks, he reminded all broadcasters present to allow their reporters, “greater editorial freedom.” For once, the entire room fell silent when the seasoned veteran posed the question: “Are we the enemy of the people?”, before reminding one and all to maintain an unassailable level of trustworthiness in order to survive in the fickle realm of public opinion.

None better than Alan Alda to receive the NAB Distinguished Service Award. The wily, extraordinary actor/writer/director/podcaster summed up his career succinctly: “My life has been an improvisation.” And for those of us who have experienced his incredible talents (not just in the long-running M*A*S*H hit) in a vast number of projects that no highlight reel could ever do justice to, we could say nothing more than, “Your life has been an inspiration.”

Merci mille fois. JWR

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Featured speaker - Gordon H. Smith
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