NAB CEO Gordon Smith Delivers Keynote Address at 2011 NAB Show

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One of my former colleagues, a congressman who was running for the Senate, once told a town meeting in Mount Pleasant, Michigan: Keep your expectations low because Congress doesn't have all the answers. "Congress," he said, "is not the sole suppository of wisdom."

Now, I think he meant repository, but I have to tell you, the rank and file of 260 members of the House of Representatives - Republican and Democrat alike - with grassroots engagement, by radio and television working together, really came through.

With their help and that of broadcasters across America, we brought the freight train under control by seeking a good faith, workable agreement with the music industry, while at the same time aggressively opposing the bill as written. Our objective was to make certain that if something passed, it provided a bright future for radio.

We offered to compensate record labels and performers if they would help us get broadcast radio on every future cell phone, which is important not only for entertainment, but more importantly, to provide the public with an effective emergency alert warning system.

In the end, the record labels rejected our offer, but the performance tax bill also died. We remain open to discussions. We're still at the table, and we hope the other side comes back.

By the way, the context of our approach marked a stark divergence from the past.

Until last year, NAB was viewed on Capitol Hill as The House of No - almost no matter the issue - which is not a long-term strategy for success, especially when trying to navigate the political minefields in Washington. In politics, we always say you can't beat something with nothing. With this new flexibility, we now find ourselves in a position of greater strength and credibility among policymakers. And this will serve us well, I think, as we shape radio's future, which remains very bright indeed.

Now in closing, let me say again in the words of Eddie Fritts...

Broadcasting is a miracle technology, still giving great value to and doing great good for the American people. The world of the future must include broadcasting and broadband without degrading either.

Finally, this thought...

If you look around the world right now, you will see we are involved in three wars.

You will see people trying to recover from an economic meltdown and keep their mortgages from going under.

You will see incomprehensible suffering in Japan.

You will see Middle East dictators, thugs and emirs trying to hold on to power amid turmoil.

Broadcasters obviously cannot alleviate these harrowing events, but we provide our listeners and viewers with the information our communities need to know during times of crisis like these. Every day we make a positive difference in our communities, local station by local station. We provide an anchor to communities when often there seems to be little to anchor them.

As I said last year, the centrifugal forces of modern life are fraying the bonds that tether our citizens to their communities. Broadcasting keeps our citizens connected to our communities and gives those communities coherence.

That is a public good that we provide. The enduring value of broadcasting is not something that policymakers should take lightly. And I assure you that NAB will continue to make that case in Washington.

Thank you very much.

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