“To say there is a wide divergence of opinion among broadcasters on whether there should be further deregulation is an understatement.” That’s what one respected executive told Radio Ink last week, despite others saying there is widespread support for loosening the ownership caps. And, following our story on the NAB’s response to some of the comments filed with the FCC, iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman wanted his opinion known as well.
The NAB has been put in an interesting position. The organization is charged with representing its members. And, on most issues, after hashing things out behind closed doors, industry executives come out fighting on the same side. The board, made up of a lot of Radio’s CEO’s or high ranking radio executives, vote on things and the NAB moves forward promoting that position. And while the NAB has been saying that support for loosening ownership caps has been overwhelming, many other executives dispute that.
The NAB filed additional comments last week aimed at those opposed to more deregulation. In addition to iHeart, Radio One, Salem and The Association of Black owned Broadcasters, there were groups such as musicFIRST, which provided a form letter to members and asked them to bombard the FCC in opposition. The NAB, aiming those comments at the activist groups, said they were “backward.” However, the iHeart CEO didn’t appreciate the filing much. Pittman sent this note to NAB CEO Gordon Smith and NAB Executive Committee Board Member Caroline Beasley: “I was surprised and disappointed to read the NAB characterization of those of us who oppose radio deregulation. Both unnecessary and not the tone I would expect from the NAB —especially against some of its own members. I thought we still had respect for those who have differing opinions.”
NAB Executive Vice President, Communications Dennis Wharton told Radio Ink the comments were not meant as a slap at other board members. “The board sets the policy of the NAB. The board voted overwhelmingly in support of ownership relief. We acknowledge there is some disagreement. NAB respects the opinions of all of our member stations and board members. We are better as an organization because of robust input from all of our members. At the end of the day, our policy positions are established through a deliberative democratic process. The Radio Board voted overwhelmingly in support of changes to ownership rules that will allow local radio to remain competitive in an evolving world that includes heightened local advertising threats from Google, Facebook and other social media companies.”
This FCC has signaled its ready to do something on loosening ownership caps. There’s no clear indication when that might be.