A broadcast blast

Valenti, NAB's Rehr rouse confab troops

National Assn. of Broadcasters topper David K. Rehr opened his industry’s convention with a call to action on several fronts, drawing a rousing assist from former MPAA topper Jack Valenti.

“I believe the NAB must move from an organization that is perceived as being on defense to one that is on offense,” Rehr said in his keynote address Monday morning.

Rehr listed five areas on which the org needs to be more active: exploiting new technology, promoting benefits of digital TV and radio, supporting telecom companies that want to enter video delivery, educating parents about existing means to block unwanted content and moving away from being perceived as lobbyists.

Rehr also called for better cooperation between networks and local affiliates. New technologies lead to new delivery methods, he said, and it’s important that “networks and local affiliates share in new revenue streams, as they are partners in building brands and creating value.”

On promoting the benefits of digital TV and radio, Rehr said NAB couldn’t afford to rely on Congress to do the job. He urged local broadcasters to inform viewers of these benefits. Then Rehr sounded a slightly Orwellian note in urging NAB to “move away from using the word ‘lobbyist,’ which has been defensive and reactive. Instead, we are adopting the word ‘advocacy,’ which conveys positive offense,” he said.

The new attitude, he added, is about “grassroots” activism. Rehr was particularly vocal about educating parents on blocking technology, which is rooted in the debate about broadcast indecency.

“We need to reframe the debate away from the stray, indecent slip-up,” he said. “Instead, we will explain to parents that they have total power — right now — to control all TV programs in their homes.”

Valenti is leading a multi-industry campaign involving broadcasters, cablers, satcasters and consumer electronics manufacturers to inform parents on this very point.

He delivered an impassioned plea for the First Amendment — even reciting it verbatim.

With the help of the Ad Council and a private advertising firm, the campaign, skedded to start in June, will air “thousands of messages” on television about existing blocking controls and technology. The 18-month campaign will cost about $300 million. Air time for the messages will be donated by broadcasters.

“We will also meet with church groups and child advocacy groups,” Valenti said. In a shot at groups that have fervently denounced allegedly indecent content, Valenti invoked what he called “an old Texas prayer: ‘Dear Lord, Let me seek the truth, but spare me the company of those who’ve found it.’

May God save the First Amendment,” he added.