New president of NAB meets the press

Gordon Smith, the new president of the NAB, is a former two-term conservative Republican senator from Oregon who was defeated in the wave that brought President Obama into office. At the recent Radio Show in Philadelphia, Smith met the press for the first time since taking the NAB job on Sept. 18.

Smith, 57, replaced Sen. Mark Hatfield and joined the Senate in 1997. Running for a third term, Smith was beaten in 2008 by Democrat Jeff Merkley. He attended Brigham Young University and got a law degree from the Southwestern University School of Law. His family owns Smith Frozen Foods company in Weston, OR. It is run by his wife.

Though a member of the Udall political family of Democrats, Smith was a right-wing Republican, voting against abortion and 82 percent of the time with Republican leader Bill Frist. His brother, Milan Dale Smith, Jr., is a federal judge appointed by President George W. Bush in 2006.

Smith circulated a draft of the Digital Content Protection Act in 2006. The unsuccessful legislation would have granted the FCC the authority to authorize the broadcast flag. This technology would have enabled the producers of television programming to ensure the programs could be recorded at home by viewers. In 2004, Smith voted to boost indecency fines against broadcasters tenfold.

At the press briefing, Smith explained when he voted to boost indecency fines, he was representing a different constituency — the voters of Oregon. Now, he emphasized, he wears NAB shoes.

“I was joined by 99 other senators,” Smith said. “When you wear the hat of an elected representative, you have a responsibility to reflect those local community standards. My job now is to help broadcasters —who do not favor indecency, who do not promote indecency — to deal with the legal ramifications of local community standards. My vote was a reflection of the sentiments of the people I represented. I now represent the National Association of Broadcasters, and I will help them with that issue because they don’t want to be tagged as promoting indecency.”

Smith said broadcasters are in the business to provide high-quality entertainment, accurate information and news. “Sometimes crazy things happen out there,” he added. “I am going to do what I can to help them get a message out that they respect those standards, too.” Smith said stations should not be penalized for the fleeting outbursts of sports figures.

Two key objectives will guide his work at the NAB, Smith said. “To be the broadcasters’ advocate on the Hill and to foster an environment where broadcasters can make new technologies theirs, rather than just responding to them,” he said.

Smith said the broadcasters have an interest in making sure their representatives know their issues. “It goes to their survival,” he said. However, Smith said for the next 14 months he is prohibited by law from contacting his former colleagues on NAB issues. “I am going to observe the law,” he said, “but it is also the law that they can ask me to come up [and testify].”

To those NAB members who wanted an experienced broadcaster to represent the organization, Smith said he respected their feelings but is “ready to prove them wrong.”