At NAB, them's fighting words

Rehr wants industry's position to be clear on issues

National Association of Broadcasters president and CEO David Rehr called for new language to better define the broadcast industry's issues and identity Monday during his keynote at the NAB convention.

"We need to be more astute choosing the words that describe us and our positions on the issues," he said. "We need to choose words that advance our cause, not words that are inherently self-defeating, confusing, defensive or simply outdated."

With this message, Rehr addressed a number of threats faced by the broadcast lobby, starting with multicasting. He suggested renaming the practice "stripping" because of the prospect that cable operators will push aside broadcast signals to make room for their own programming.

"We're not asking to take someone else's property or programming," he said. "We're simply asking that the cable companies not take ours. We're simply asking that they do not take the anti-competitive step of stripping out our signals. We have already begun to take this message to Congress, and it has been well-received."

He also suggested that the term "down conversion," which describes the process of converting high-definition broadcast signals to standard definition, needs to be replaced. "In the last Congress, draft legislation would've permitted cable operators to down convert or degrade a television broadcaster's HD signal to a standard one," he told the crowd. "Doesn't calling it discrimination make more sense than 'down conversion? ' "

Rehr next turned to the topic of on-air royalty rates in the music industry, saying, "This is not about a right. It's about a wrong that the record companies are seeking to perpetuate.

"But now the record labels want the government to impose a tax on radio stations for playing their artists' music. Imagine the brazen greed it takes for the record companies to expect us to pay them for the honor of marketing and promoting their artists' music."

He emphasized, "We will advocate that Congress oppose this levy on the market. If successful, it would be a government-imposed performance tax. And we will fight it with everything we have."

Rehr also took a moment to blast the proposed Sirius-XM satellite radio merger before the packed crowd. "It is not a merger they seek. It is a monopoly," he said. "It will be a huge consumer headache because the companies use two different technologies that are not compatible with each other."