Smith: Broadcasters ‘Most Trusted Local Source’ on COVID Info

Gordon Smith
(Image credit: NAB)

WASHINGTON—TV stations and radio stations are the best message carriers to reach populations with information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and other related information, NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith told members of the Senate Commerce Committee, citing research that broadcasters are “the most reliable and trustworthy information source.”

Smith gave this testimony today, April 15, as part of the Senate Commerce Committee’s “Shot of Truth: Communicating Trusted Vaccine Information” hearing.

In his testimony, Smith said that local broadcasters have long served as primary sources of information for communities during times of emergency, with the coronavirus pandemic no different, keeping communities informed about the ongoing developments of the pandemic.

Now that a vaccine is available and being distributed, Smith said that broadcasters are eager to work with government agencies and public health and medical communities to best inform their viewers.

Viewers are looking toward broadcasters for this information as well. Smith cited a study that NAB partnered with the Reynolds Journalism Institute on, showing people find local news to be the best source of information—social media was the least trusted. Smith said the research proved that a local and regional approach would be a more effective strategy than a “one-size-fits-all national message.”

Smith acknowledged that the report did show that certain demographics—like African Americans, Hispanics, conservative-leaning Whites and women aged 18-34—are more hesitant about the vaccine. However, local broadcasters are better suited to help remove some of that hesitancy.

“With the highest reach of all media platforms into more than 90% of households, and a service that is ubiquitous and free to the public, broadcast radio and TV stations are the best message carriers to reach vulnerable populations,” said Smith. “Local stations serve communities of color, multilingual ethnic minorities and rural areas of the country where vaccine hesitancy is highest.”

NAB is also doing what it can to promote COVID-19 vaccines, with Smith sharing that NAB is a founding member of the Biden administration’s recently announced Community Corps, whose mission is to support trusted messengers in local communities to encourage people to get vaccinated.

“As this pandemic has shown once again, localism and journalism are central to broadcasting’s franchise,” said Smith. “Therefore, we are eager to continue to assist Congress, the Administration and local leaders by using our airwaves to carry the message America needs—and trusts—to get over the finish line with the COVID-19 pandemic.”