National Association of Broadcasters president and CEO Gordon Smith on Monday opened the NAB Show in Las Vegas by posing a challenge to broadcasters.
"Broadcasters carry the torch of freedom and integrity," he told the crowd, "and we must use this to question those in power, to expose those who abuse their positions and to find the truth."
During the convention's opening session, Hearst president and CEO Steven Swartz struck a similar theme and was rewarded with applause as he discussed the role of journalists, saying, "Journalism is first and foremost at our company. With that comes great responsibility for fairness, accuracy and courage. And also to step back and ask ourselves ... what are we doing to make this a better country and expand civic knowledge?"
"We have a crisis in this country, we need to build awareness," he continued. "We need to make contributions to make it a better country."
Smith used his keynote to address broadcasters' principles, as well as to champion innovation such as the proposed next-generation broadcast standard known as ATSC 3.0.
Emphasizing that ATSC 3.0 represents the combined "advantages of broadcast and broadband," Smith said, "we are pleased that the FCC is carefully considering our request that broadcasters be permitted to voluntarily adopt next-gen TV. FCC chairman Ajit Pai [who is set to speak Tuesday at NAB] has said he hopes the commission can issue a final authorization of the standard later this year. Meanwhile, NAB continues to lead the effort to educate U.S. policymakers about the great benefits to viewers in expediting the approval of next-gen TV."
Additionally, the NAB chief spoke about broadcasters' efforts to promote access to radio receivers in smartphones - and urged Apple to join this effort.
"Virtually all smartphones are manufactured with hardware capable of receiving free FM radio signals, but not all phones have this feature activated, either by choice of the phone's manufacturer or the wireless carrier," said Smith. "We applaud the major U.S. carriers - Sprint, AT&T, T Mobile and Verizon - for unlocking FM capability in their Android phones. NAB is also urging Apple to provide its customers with this feature, but they have not done so yet."
He added: "The former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Craig Fugate, has said activating FM radio in smartphones would "ensure if all else fails, you can still get information from the broadcasters" during times of emergency. We hope our friends at Apple are listening and will soon make this potentially lifesaving technology available to their customers."
During the opening session, Distinguished Service Awards were presented to former Good Morning, America hosts Joan Lunden and David Hartman.