Rehr: 'We Must Reignite The Passion' For Radio

MINNEAPOLIS -- June 27, 2008: NAB President/CEO David Rehr talked up radio's strong points as he keynoted the Conclave Friday, but he also acknowledged that, "like any long-term relationship, things between radio and its listeners may have gotten a little stale over the past few decades."

Rehr said, "Radio is so pervasive, like water, air, and electricity, that many people take it for granted. I believe we must do a better job reminding people why they fell in love with radio. We must reignite the passion."

He then talked about how that's being addressed through the ongoing Radio 2020 initiative, announced at the NAB Radio Show last September. He pointed to "four key areas for growth opportunities to remind consumers of the value of radio."

On the technology side, Rehr said, "We must ensure that radio is incorporated on every new gadget, everywhere" -- something he said consumers demand, and that will be to the advantage of manufacturers. He pointed to a recent NAB study that showed radio could reach 257 million mobile subscribers if FM were offered on more cell phones.

Rehr's second key point was "playlist variety and format diversity." He said, "We know that in this customizable era, consumers are becoming more selective and protective of their choices. People want new, unique content. They want niche channels. And radio must respond." He said HD Radio offers "immense opportunities" to do that, and pointed to automaker deals and new technology that lets stations upgrade to HD at a lower cost.

Rehr then turned to the future of radio, saying radio "can't afford to rest on its laurels." He continued, "We are working to help empower radio stations and their sales teams to be evangelists for radio, by sharing best practices and helping our radio loyalists tell radio's story, and by working with agencies to develop and cultivate more creative and dynamic advertising."

The NAB conducted a large-scale survey when it rolled out Radio 2020, and Rehr said, "Armed with what we learned from the survey and with what we know about our business, we must act now to ensure radio's value is realized well into the next century."

Finally, he said radio must work to "reignite" consumers by reminding them that radio is unlike any other medium. He pointed to radio's accessibility and convenience and said, "Radio is a great equalizer, a great unifier."

He said, "This is the driving force behind Radio 2020. We have to remind consumers of the value of radio."

Radio 2020 is now rolling out the "Radio Heard Here" campaign, with multiplatform promotional and educational initiatives that, Rehr said, are "design to engage virtually the entire ecosystem that radio touches." He pointed Conclave attendees to for tools and information and said the NAB will be distributing talking points and a fact book on "what we need to tell people about radio." The NAB will also be sending out spots to remind people of what they love about radio.

Rehr said the response to the campaign so far has been "great" and added, "It is our hope, that armed with the facts and the good news about radio, you will join us in this campaign to reinvigorate this great business and secure a successful future."

Moving on to regulatory issues, Rehr talked about the FCC's proposed localism regulations, which, he said, "reflect an outdated regulatory mindset." He continued, "Many have been tried and previously dismissed by the Commission as ineffective, unnecessary and too burdensome on broadcasters," pointing to the proposed local advisory boards, return to the main studio rule, and reporting ruled. "We've been through this before," Rehr said.

He said the broadcasters already serve their local communities every day, "and we don't need the government to step in to tell us how. And NAB is driving that message home in Washington each and every day."

On the Performance Rights Act, to impose performance royalties on radio, Rehr compared the number of House co-sponsors of the anti-royalties Local Radio Freedom Act, 220, to the 20 co-sponsors of the PRA.

The PRA passed in the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property on Thursday, but Rehr pointed out, "There are more hurdles for the bill in the future." He urged broadcasters to ask their members of Congress to support the Local Radio Freedom Act in the House and the Senate, and said, "Momentum is on our side. The House sponsors of the performance tax bill have admitted that they do not have the support to move this legislation this year. But we must keep the pressure on. I believe with your support and action, we will be successful in this battle."

On the long-pending merger of XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio, which the NAB has been battling, he said the decision by the Department of Justice to approve the merger was "disappointing" but added, "We are working tirelessly to ensure the FCC takes action where the Justice Department would not."

He said, "Given the satellite radio companies systematic breaking of FCC rules over their 11 years of existence, it is unfathomable that the commission could now reward the companies with a monopoly."

Rehr concluded, "Radio's future is bright. And if we are persistent and consistent, we will win our battles. We will realize the enormous opportunities ahead ... and, ladies and gentlemen, we will make radio new again. We will be reinvigorated. And we will prosper."