NAB CEO Urges Tech Companies to Build Broadcast Chips Into Mobile Devices

Gordon H. Smith speaks during the 2018 NAB Show - Getty-H 2019
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Speaking about the new U.S. broadcast standard that can enable tablets and cellphones to receive an over-the-air broadcast signal without using a cellular network and using up data, National Association of Broadcasters president and CEO Gordon H. Smith on Monday urged manufacturers including Apple to build broadcast chips into mobile devices.

“We may be on the cusp of a new era of manufacturing that should and could include broadcast reception in your phone," the exec asserted during his keynote at the 2019 NAB Show in Las Vegas, receiving loud applause from the crowd. "But to date, manufacturers, Apple being one, refuse to enable broadcast chips in their devices. And it begs the question, why?"

Smith also called on lawmakers to address the "threat" to local journalism by tech companies by "increas[ing] regulation on the tech industry to ensure that these companies cannot use their market power to stifle competition and the financial viability of local news." He also urged legislators to modernize "outdated" broadcast regulations "to allow us to compete on a level playing field with these behemoth tech and pay-TV companies."

Addressing these "threats," Smith said, "While I don’t often agree with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, I was intrigued by her recent comments about the big tech companies. She said, 'They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation.'"

He added, "I wonder if this growing tech power is one of the reasons why this consumer benefit [of the new broadcast standard] is being held back by the manufacturers."

The capability that would be afforded by including a broadcast chip in mobile devices, Smith noted, would not only bring consumers their programs, but "a lifeline" with a new emergency warning system.

An attachment for a mobile device, which the exec previewed onstage during his keynote, could also make this possible.

During his address, Smith cited additional legislative issues which the NAB is working on, including getting what he described as "fair streaming rates" to enable simulcasting.