The NAB Show, which typically draws roughly a hundred thousand people to Las Vegas each April, was sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic. But the show must go on, and its virtual replacement, which the National Association of Broadcasters has dubbed NAB Show Express, got underway with a message of fortitude. “Broadcasters endure,” said NAB President Gordon Smith on Wednesday.
Smith said that he has heard from broadcasters that the pandemic has led to some “very difficult” decisions by its member companies, such as laying off employees, taking out loans to make payroll, or even closing their doors. “Right now, you are in the darkest valley, but know that for most Americans, you are their beacon of light and hope,” he said. “As the world faces an uncertain situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, your work is more important than ever.” From hurricanes and 9/11 to countless charity events, local radio and TV has traditionally made public service part of its core business mission. Smith said as broadcasters feel the suffering of their communities, the industry is once again stepping up to raise funds for those who have lost their jobs, help feed the hungry, and support small businesses and local restaurants. “The response from broadcasters – who themselves are fighting for their lives and livelihoods – has been nothing short of phenomenal,” he said.
The NAB estimates radio and television stations have now donated nearly $100 million dollars’ worth of airtime for public service announcements related to the coronavirus. The tally for the initiative, which launched March 12, doesn’t include the PSAs that local radio and television stations have created and aired on their own.
In Washington, Smith said the NAB is working to advocate on behalf of stations that are confronting plummeting advertising sales and enormous operational challenges. That’s most notably included its lobbying efforts in Congress, where the NAB has been urging legislators to allow local stations to apply for forgivable loans and to ensure the money the federal government is spending to advertise its programs is directed to local media. “We have broad bipartisan support across Congress on these initiatives,” Smith told the industry. He said the NAB has also been working closely with the Federal Communications Commission to address a variety of issues to allow radio and TV stations to focus on its role as first informers. “The FCC heard our concerns and has announced multiple extensions of deadlines, clarifications and exceptions to existing policies,” Smith said.
The annual NAB Show is the single largest financial contributor to the trade group’s annual budget but the decision to not hold the show in Las Vegas was made in mid-March after the NAB consulted with the show’s key constituencies – exhibitors and companies that send people to the convention. Smith thanked those groups for sticking with the event as it transitioned to a virtual showcase of the industry in what was called a “solutions marketplace” by organizers. “We are particularly grieved not to have in-person exhibits this year,” Smith said. “We are all enduring this hardship together, and we appreciate those of you who have been, and will continue to be, NAB Show partners.” The format of Smith’s annual state of the industry address may have been different in 2020, which he noted marked the 100th anniversary since KDKA Pittsburgh (1020) signed-on, but Smith expects the NAB Show to return to its traditional format next year.
“Our great industry has endured for the past hundred years because of the indispensable and irreplaceable role broadcasters play in every town and city across the nation,” Smith said. “And we will endure for at least 100 more, because you are the backbone of our country. You are truly what makes America great. And we are in this together.”