NAB Opening Session Raises Regulatory Questions in Light of Facebook's Woes

Broadcasters "are in the same business in a sense, but we are highly regulated,” said NAB CEO Gordon Smith.
Courtesy of NAB
NAB president-CEO Gordon Smith

Prior to meeting with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, House Energy and Commerce Committee chair Greg Walden stated clearly: “Silicon Valley has never been regulated. I’m on the light touch regulation side, and let people compete."

He spoke in general terms about regulation on Monday during the opening session at NAB Show in Las Vegas, where he participated in a conversation with National Association of Broadcasters president-CEO Gordon Smith, who raised questions about regulation in light of Facebook’s woes.

“To date there really has been no regulation on social media, but they compete with broadcasters for eyes, ears and advertising dollars," Smith said. "We are in the same business in a sense, but we are highly regulated.”

He asked if the answer might be more regulation for social media, or less broadcaster regulation.

“These are serious matters,” Walden said of the Facebook allegations. “People need to know how their data is used. If [a platform] violates user agreements, there are processes in place. It is about the evolving nature of our platforms."

Zuckerberg will meet with Walden’s committee for the first time on Wednesday. "He's an incredible innovator," Walden said.

Their conversation followed Smith’s State of the Broadcast Industry address, during which he asserted that “our future lies in investing in the innovation that is crucial to our long-term growth.”

A notable part of Smith’s address focused on the new voluntary next-generation broadcast standard (known as ATSC 3.0) — recently approved by the FCC — which can offer 4K resolution, high dynamic range, mobility, emergency response and other services.

Early experimentation has started. Smith noted that the NAB partnered with Capitol Broadcasting Company’s WRAL-TV and NBC Universal to air the recent Winter Olympics using Next Gen TV on an experimental broadcast channel in Raleigh, North Carolina. Additionally, two efforts to created test markets are underway — one in Phoenix, led by Pearl stations, and one in Dallas, led by Sinclair, Nexstar and Univision.