From The Corner Office – November 2010

November 2, 2010

The Power of Unity


Hello,

Radio is the most powerful medium on Earth. Sure, we have our newer, sleeker competitors, from Internet streaming apps like Pandora to social media juggernauts like Facebook. But radio was the original wireless technology and the original social media, and still today our audience is unmatched.

When united – whether for a philanthropic movement like helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina, rescuing an abducted child with AMBER Alerts, or engaging the citizenry through voter registration drives – local radio stations are a powerful force for good.

So it is with disappointment that I read some of the commentary from radio observers assaulting the recent action of the NAB Radio Board, questioning the future of our business, and suggesting impure motivations by radio’s leadership.

In August, I wrote a column praising the pragmatic and politically savvy proposal circulated by NAB regarding the performance fee issue. I won’t rehash those arguments here, other than to reiterate that I believe strongly that in both the short and long term, all radio broadcasters will benefit from the more productive approach of engaging our adversaries rather than demonizing them. By having a seat at the table, we can shape our future rather than having it imposed upon us.

A far more concerning commentary, however, is coming from a few misguided camps in radio who seek to divide our business. That’s unfortunate. NAB’s Radio Board, on which I have the privilege of serving, includes some of radio’s most dedicated and savvy business men and women. They represent stations from towns as small as Carthage, Texas to metropolitan-based stations in New York City. Their companies are publicly-held, privately-held, family-owned and passed down from generation to generation. Radio is in their blood, and ensuring radio’s vibrant future is a priority for all. When these leaders voted overwhelmingly last week to pursue a new strategy on the performance fee issue, we did so with eyes wide open, with robust debate, and with the best of intentions. It is simply outrageous to suggest that any of us is “selling out” or “caving in.”

Equally disturbing is the suggestion that radio should spin off a separate trade association in Washington – one that represents only radio, or one that represents only small- to medium-market radio stations. What exactly would that accomplish? The last thing that our business needs now is fractured leadership and separate agendas in Washington, DC.

To be clear: Last week’s vote was taken with great deliberation and with an understanding of the consequences. The easy solution would have been to simply continue screaming ‘no’ at the top of our lungs, leaving for the next generation of radio broadcasters the possibility that legislation will be imposed upon us that threatens our very business model. In my view, that approach would have been a grave mistake.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this; drop me a note at AskPeter@greatermedia.com