NAB Chairman looks at radio like an emerging technology

At the recently finished NAB Convention in America, NAB President and CEO Edward O. Fritts gave the opening address, where he imagined that radio was an emerging technology and asked how would radio be treated.

He said:

Ladies & gentlemen, I want you to imagine for a moment that you lived in a country where you had cable TV, satellite TV, satellite radio…you had the Internet, broadband, wi-fi, and so forth … but imagine that local radio and television did not exist.

Imagine a country where all households had to pay $75 a month or more for TV entertainment, $10 a month for their radio, and $50 a month for their high-speed Internet service.

Imagine that, other than the morning paper, news of the community was limited and there was no direct connection to the local community.

Now … imagine that a new wireless technology came along and declared:

We will give you free television.

We will give you free radio.

We will give you free local news, free local weather reports and school closings as they happen.

What’s more, we will be a leading contributor to the local community.

We will be as local as the bakery, the car dealership, the church or synagogue.

We will volunteer billions of dollars of public service every year, and help raise hundreds of millions for charity.

We will be the first responders in getting out information on local emergencies, such as tornadoes and terrorist attacks.

We will even bring you emergency alerts that will save the lives of 150 kidnapped children.

We will be the community’s local lifeline.

My friends, if this new technology called broadcasting came along today, it would be hailed as a miracle. It would be the darling of legislators and regulators. They would herald it as an amazing addition to public and political discourse. They would declare it a tremendous advance in public safety in this era of concern over homeland security.

I saw a cartoon the other day. A fellow is in a phone store with all these different kinds of phones that take pictures, send text, play music and so forth, and he says to the clerk, “Do you have a phone where you just talk to people?”

Sometimes we lose sight of the fundamentals in the pursuit of the flashy and the fleeting.

I think something similar has happened to broadcasting, at least on the part of some public policymakers.

If broadcasting were a developing technology, the government would enthusiastically encourage its spread. Look how Congress is loath to regulate the Internet or to do anything that might stifle its growth. I think the Internet is terrific, but what has the Internet done for community service? How many kidnapped kids have been saved by a Web site?

Ladies & gentlemen, I am here to tell you that broadcasting should feel good about its function and its future…