National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) President and CEO, Curtis LeGeyt, delivered his inaugural State of the Industry address during the 2022 NAB Show, emphasising the resilience of traditional broadcasters, the need for policy change and the importance of the sector to the fabric of communities.
“For years, our critics have tried to write us off as yesterday’s technology, predicting a diminished future for broadcasters at the hands of the latest innovation,” he said. “First it was the advent of television itself, then competition with cable, the VCR, the DVR, social media, and now podcasts and streaming, broadcasters’ demise has been predicted for decades.
“But here’s the thing. Every single time, real-life events actually brought local broadcasters back to the forefront and demonstrated there is no other medium that can connect and inform the way we do.
“Our next generation of technologies includes not only the revolutionary new broadcast standard – ATSC 3.0 – but also other content delivery methods – whether it’s 5G, streaming, or mobile video.
“I am also excited by the evolution of radio. Radio in the car is becoming a screen driven experience. The data capabilities of HD Radio and the connected car give broadcasters powerful new ways to build and extend their listener relationships.
“Our investment in technology is an investment in localism and the trusted journalism Americans rely on every day.”
The NAB CEO went on to outline the policy areas he says need to be addressed if broadcasters’ are to continue to innovate and grow their uniquely free service.
“First,” said LeGeyt, “Congress must take action to rein in the gatekeeping ability of the Big Tech giants who are stifling the economics of local news. A 2021 study found that local broadcasters lose an estimated USD$2 billion annually when our content is accessed through Google and Facebook. $2 billion! But this is not a copyright problem, it’s a market power problem.v
“Broadcasters and all local media rely on these platforms to reach online audiences. We have no other choice. Yet their market dominance allows them to offer us ‘take it or leave it’ compensation terms that significantly devalue our product.”
LeGeyt cited the testimony given before the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee by Joel Oxley, general manager of WTOP in Washington, which summarised Big Tech’s unfair advantage.
Oxley had testified: “Consider the big storm that just blew through the Northeast … blizzard conditions. Tons of work at a lot of cost and time for local broadcasters. But not for Facebook, Google and the like. They simply take our coverage, profit from it, and virtually nothing comes back to us. If we don’t find a way to have true partnerships with the big platforms, we will not be around – and neither will our coverage.”
LeGeyt also cited a study by the Brookings Institute which concluded that Americans are harmed when local news suffers with inadequate local news linked to more government corruption, less-competitive elections, and weaker municipal finances.
“That is why Congress must pass legislation to rein in the market power of the big tech platforms,” said the NAB President and CEO. “That includes the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which would level the playing field for broadcasters. This bill would allow us to jointly negotiate the value of our local content that is accessed through these platforms. There is no long-term business model for local news if we don’t fix this existential problem.”
LeGeyt said lawmakers and regulators must also modernise media ownership laws to reflect the realities of the marketplace.
“A report released last Congress by Senate Commerce Chair Maria Cantwell noted that Google and Facebook control an estimated 77 percent of locally focused digital advertising,” he said. “Yet broadcasters still operate under a set of rules that pretend they only compete with one another.
“We are adapting our business models and our content to match today’s rapidly changing media landscape. But outdated laws force us to compete with one arm tied behind our back for advertising dollars and audience. Congress and the FCC must take a fresh look at whether these decades-old regulations are helping or impeding broadcast competition and media diversity.
“We are urging the FCC to reorient how it thinks about broadcast policy more broadly. It is imperative that the FCC recognise that the broadcast industry’s ability to function in the public interest is fundamentally premised on its economic viability. This means the Commission must consider whether each existing and new regulation will help or impede broadcasters’ ability to thrive in a media environment dominated by other services.
“It means embracing the tremendous consumer benefits of ATSC 3.0 and adopting policies that enable its growth to the benefit of localism and trusted journalism. And it also means the FCC working hand-in-hand with broadcasters to help us attract leading talent from all backgrounds to ensure our stations better reflect the diversity of the communities we serve.
“Broadcasting is more than a technology. It is a public service – interwoven in the fabric of our communities.”