By Hannah Osborne
The Georgia Association of Broadcasters had the pleasure and privilege to discuss vital aspects of broadcasting with a number of congressional leaders from Georgia. The GAB prioritized two topics in these meetings, the first topic covered was the essential function of AM radio and the necessity to keep AM radio in vehicles. In addition to discussing AM radio, the GAB highlighted the discussion of Virtual Multichannel Video Programming Distributor (vMVPD), that would adjust how streaming services, like Netflix and YouTube TV, negotiate broadcasters compensation through a Congressionally-mandated process called retransmission consent. The GAB is asking congressional leaders to urge the FCC to “refresh the record” so that moving forward local stations are able to receive adequate compensation.
On Tuesday June 13, ‘Radio’s Road to the Future,’ conference hosted at the NAB headquarters brought nearly 150 broadcasters from around the country together to energize the advocacy to occur the following day. President of the Georgia Association of Broadcasters, Bob Houghton, was one of these broadcasters.
“For myself and other ‘veteran’ state broadcast executives it has been referred to as ‘the most meaningful event that I have attended as a state broadcaster.’ The energy and enthusiasm in the room was palatable and uplifting,” said Houghton. “The conference really turned into what could be considered a ‘pep rally’ when Senate leaders Ed Markey (D-MA) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) wrapped up the session with a rousing endorsement of the AM for Every Vehicle Act.”
Houghton highlights the comments and viewpoints of the broadcasters panel made-up of underserved communities that benefit from A.M. radio as a standout of the day. Representing this panel included the National Association of Farm Broadcasters, the National Religious Broadcasters and the National Association of Black-Owned Broadcasters, in addition to a station owner representing Latino broadcasters.
On June 14, broadcasters got down to business. The GAB met with 13 of the 16 Congress people representing Georgia. Representatives that were present at these discussions include Reps. Andrew Clyde (R), David Scott (D), Barry Loudermilk (R), Nikema Williams (D), Sanford Bishop (D), Richard McCormick (R), Rick Allen (R), Buddy Carter (R), Drew Ferguson (R), Austin Scott (R) and Lucy McBath (D). As well as Georgia Senators Jon Ossoff (D) and Raphael Warnock (D).
Reps. Scott, Bishop and Johnson have joined the AM radio bill as co-sponsors, the requests for the remaining congressmen to join are to be determined.
“Of the representatives, we were able to meet with, they were well aware of the AM in Every Vehicle Act and generally very supportive. In terms of our second issue, vMVPDS, most congressmen and owners were less aware of the issue. It was an excellent opportunity for us to introduce this important issue,” said Houghton.
Sen. Ossoff, who had his own taste of the world of broadcasting last Friday, June 9 with WSB hosting The Mark Arum Show, engaged in a stimulating 30-minute conversation with the GAB on a variety of issues and two major interests to broadcasters.
“We really appreciated members who left the house chamber during lulls in the voting throughout the day to meet with us,” said Houghton. “We would also like to extend our appreciation to our board members Ben Hart, Geniece Granville, Val Carolin and Kenny Burgamy, who accompanied us to Washington, D.C. We all put on our track shoes to visit 13 different offices in five different buildings, plus a visit to the house floor.”
Houghton noted the stimulating feeling that visiting capitol hill produces, “It is always exciting to be at the capitol and experiencing the ‘people’s business,’ creating legislation that affects all.” This business is visible in the t-shirts worn by steel workers and members of the teacher’s union to the traditional suit and ties of lawyers and congressmen.
Throughout the day, broadcasters from across the country were able to advocate for the needs of all broadcasters and the communities they serve.