A new vocabulary can reframe issues facing broadcasters, Rehr says

The broadcast industry has a problem with its language, identity and branding, NAB president and CEO David Rehr told the audience assembled for his opening keynote April 16 at NAB2007.

Reminding the broadcasters in attendance that “words have consequences,” Rehr said, “we need to be more astute choosing the words that describe us and our positions on the issues.”

A new lexicon will make it easier for policymakers and the public to understand broadcasters and the issues they face. New words and descriptions will help “rebrand over-the-air radio and television broadcasting to reflect the new digital industry we are creating,” he said.

Rehr gave a few examples. For instance, he suggested the long-running battle between the broadcast and the cable industries over “multicasting” and “must carry” would be better framed as broadcasters being “anti-stripping.”

People who hear about “multicasting” assume cable companies have to cut cable channels to accept additional broadcast channels, he explained; however, that’s not what’s happening. Thanks to compression technology, “we are making the pie bigger by adding extra slices, extra programming,” he said.

“We're simply asking that [cable operators] do not take the anti-competitive step of stripping out our signals,” he said.

Another example is the “downconversion” of broadcast HD signals by cable operators, he said. Draft legislation in the last Congress would have allowed cable operators to downconvert broadcasters’ HD signals to SD, allowing them “to carry their own channels in full HD while degrading our signals,” he explained.

According to Rehr, that approach is better described as “digital discrimination” or “HD discrimination.” “Doesn’t calling it discrimination make more sense than ‘downconversion?’” he asked.

The industry needs to reframe and rebrand not only those issues but perceptions about the broadcasting business itself, he said.

For more information, visit www.nab.org.