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Gordon Smith Speech at Media Institute Communications Forum Luncheon

23/07/2019

Gordon Smith Speech at Media Institute Communications Forum Luncheon WASHINGTON, D.C. -- NNAB President & CEO Gordon Smith was the featured speaker at The Media Institute's Communications Forum luncheon today.

Below is a transcript of his speech as prepared for delivery.

* * *

Thank you. I appreciate this opportunity to talk about broadcasters' vital role in protecting the First Amendment and serving America's local communities.

Just a few days ago, Americans celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

On that unforgettable day, an estimated 650 million people around the world tuned into their televisions as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon. Families and friends took a collective breath as they listened to Armstrong utter these memorable words, That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

One-fifth of the world's population watched the live televised image of the moon landing that day, with millions of others also listening to the event on their radios.

As we reflect upon this special anniversary, I and we are reminded of how broadcasters are always there to capture the most indelible moments in history. Broadcasters have the unique ability to bring us together as a nation like no other medium can.

The world has changed dramatically in the five decades since the Apollo 11 moon landing. Indeed, the media landscape seems to have changed in the blink of an eye, and continues to rapidly progress.

Today, in addition to local radio and television stations, there are a multitude of sources of information and content, giving consumers an overwhelming number of options and creating greater competition.

Ten years ago, there were nearly 240 million websites. Today, there are more than 1.6 billion.

The rise of social media has presented another platform for people to connect with each other, share and gain information and express opinions. 500 million Tweets are sent a day and 1.56 billion people a day log onto Facebook.

And though the number of people who are using social media as a source for news is growing, sorting fact from fiction has become more challenging on these platforms.

In my two decades as a public servant and now more than a decade as a broadcaster, I have witnessed the growing influence of social media and wonder if it's no coincidence that we have also seen the rise of divisive politics. In my last Senate campaign, in 2008, the glue of civility seemed to come apart in our civic discourse and a decade later, it has only gotten worse.

Though the rise of social media can be seen as democratizing, giving a greater number of people the opportunity to express their thoughts and opinions in an open forum, I believe it has also been a destabilizing force that has impacted our society in troubling ways. The paradox of social media - democratizing, yet destabilizing. Again, I am a witness

There doesn't seem to be an appetite for civil discourse on these platforms. Rather, one can more easily find heated debates fueled by name calling or rumors and gossip that try to pass as journalistic news, and, unfortunately, sometimes succeed.

And what you find on pay TV can also be unsettling there the so-called news is fraught with partisan bickering, where the end-goal seems to be having the last word.

Sadly, we have become a more fragmented society where the winners and losers are quickly identified minute-by-minute on social media and where the truth and thoughtful debate are suppressed by the proliferation of fake news and false accounts.

Not surprisingly, a recent Ballast Research survey revealed that only two percent of policymakers believe social media is committed to hard facts and 90 percent believe that social media is part of the so called fake news problem.

It is a challenging time in the news industry where our citizens are overwhelmed by so much information and confused about finding the truth. That is why I believe broadcast radio and television are more important today than they have ever been.

Broadcasters give our communities coherence - survey after survey show that people trust their local stations that deliver the news accurately and without bias.

Local stations' investigations protect consumers from scams and their reporting of local elections help voters make informed decisions.

Broadcast networks provide high-quality and hard-hitting investigative stories and thoughtful public affairs programming such as 60 Minutes, Meet the Press and This Week, and presidential debates, that keep citizens informed and hold elected officials accountable for their actions.

It's unfortunate that at a time when this trusted information is so critical to our communities, some of our pay-TV partners, like AT&T and DISH, seem to be purposefully withholding broadcast signals from viewers - making them pawns in a political game that aims to upend the retransmission consent system.

Is their goal to manufacture the appearance of a broken system to encourage Congress to intervene just as it deliberates the upcoming STELAR expiration? If so, that is a dangerous game and one that hurts viewers - their customers - the most.

But, sadly, it's not all that surprising. After all, AT&T and DISH are the same companies that have been responsible for more than four out of five retransmission consent disruptions industry-wide over the past eight years.

AT&T is the same company that is currently making decisions to withhold its content from viewers on competing platforms in the immediate aftermath of a merger where they committed just the opposite to regulators.

It is the same company asking for exorbitant fees for their own content offerings, while refusing to fairly compensate broadcasters' highest-rated programming.

And finally, AT&T is the same
LINK: http://www.nab.org/documents/newsRoom/pressRelease.asp?id=5081...
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