NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BROADCASTERS
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
APRIL 19, 2004
© Copyright 2004 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P
All rights reserved. Do not use without written permission from HP.
Thanks, Eddie, for those nice words. In an industry known for its famous voices, there has been no voice stronger these past 20 years for the needs of this industry than Eddie Fritts.
It was 81 years ago this week, at a hotel in downtown Chicago, that the NAB was born. Looking back from the vantage point we have over the eight decades that followed, it's easy to believe that it was all inevitable - that radio would pull America through the Great Depression; that television would bring us together in ways we couldn't imagine; that satellite would shrink our globe while expanding our possibilities; that broadcasting, in the words of poet Archibald MacLeish, would become "one of the great forces of enlightenment in the world."
But history tells us that it was anything but inevitable. History tells us that every great age of achievement is less a product of chance and more a product of choice. Achievement is always less a product of destiny, and more the direct result of decisions made by people just like you, sitting in rooms like this one, who imagined the future, and then made it happen.
After eight decades of achievement, today that question falls to us: what is asked of this generation?
At a time when technology is shifting the landscape of this industry and every other industry more radically than any time since the industrial revolution, when the tools being invented raise the very real possibility that soon, we will be able to reach every single one of the six billion people on this planet, the question remains: what will define greatness today?
I believe that greatness in any industry, in any company, in any leader, in any age is defined by two things: it is defined by capability; and it is defined by character. Capability: what can you do? And character: what are you going to do with it?
I think the capabilities of this age and this industry are quickly being defined. But the character of this age - the character that all of you are in a position of deciding - has not been defined. That is the challenge before us today.
Today, there is no question what is shaping the capabilities of this age of broadcasting. It is digital technology. We have entered an era in which every process and all content is going from analog, static, and physical to digital, mobile, and virtual.
Just think about the changes taking place with photography today. Photography used to be a chemical, physical process. You took a picture, and something happened in your camera; you took your film to a photo mat, something chemical happened and something physical was created; you picked up your film, you sorted through your pictures - probably threw half of them in a drawer - and when you got around to it, maybe you mailed some of them to family and friends, or put some in a photo album.
Today, photography is a digital, mobile, virtual process. You create digital content - maybe with a digital camera - a digital camera is a computer with a lens. Maybe with a camera phone. And then you take that content and you edit it yourself and then you distribute it, you send it wirelessly, you share it, and when you are ready, you print it - all without leaving the room. And every process is beginning to follow this same pattern. We've all seen what it's meant to music.
Every industry is being changed by the digital revolution. And this industry is not going through one digital revolution today - you are going through three.
The first revolution is happening at the production level. From digital cameras that are working at higher resolution; to dailies that are now digitally received and digitally reviewed, the advent of digital technology in the shooting and post-production of content is saving time, saving money, and allowing all of us to do more with less. That full transition to digital has not universally happened in large part because a lot of the state of the art technologies that exist today exist as digital islands. These islands do not speak a common language, and there is no common automated processes that connect one island to the other. Which is part of the reason that companies like HP are working so hard to bring open standards - a key part of having a common language - to this part of broadcasting.
The second revolution you're going through is at the industry level, where broadcasters are required to hand over analog spectrum and begin the move to digital by 2006. The way the law is defined, it is likely to take a decade before digital becomes commonplace in the United States. But as the stations who have already made the move to digital know, instead of one stream coming out of your station, there will be six. It means that instead of having to compete on one program schedule - during prime time, when cable is at its best by being at its worst - you'll have six streams which allow you to do what you can't do right now: target programming for families or local communities, creating a whole new level of value and new revenue opportunities.
The third revolution is happening at the individual level - at the consumer level. And this is the most disruptive shift. Where the past 5,000 years in communication can be seen as a steady track from one-to-one communication to increasingly sophisticated forms of one-to-many - the digital revolution is bringing a return to one-to-one communication, in what has been called the complete personalization of media. In the digital era, the future is one in which consumers watch or listen to what they want to watch, when they want, at any time they want, on any device. This is a generation that will not wait for content to be delivered to them at a prescribed time.
While compelling storytelling and rich entertainment experiences have always been the foundation of this industry, many of the supporting business models that have guided it for nearly a century are changing radically. What happens to a business model that depends on ad dollars when consumers can record the programs they want and skip the commercials altogether? What happens when a teacher wants to tap your digital archives to order the best TV and film documentaries on the Civil War for her American History class? How do media companies charge for that? Many of these answers will come not just through new economic models, but through the use of new technology.
Just in the last year, for example, citizens across the world have used mobile phones to vote and send live feedback to TV characters, to transmit film promotions to target audiences, and to even send movie clips directly to cell phones. Just last week, HP and Nokia introduced Visual Radio, a new technology allowing radio broadcasters and advertisers to interact in real time with their listeners via cell phones. Thousands of new applications and services are just around the corner. You will have the opportunity to monetize the content that today sits idle in your storage archives. There is money to be made just as there is money to be saved.
What we have found in industry after industry, when it comes to digital technology, is that if you wait until the change that's required is obvious to everyone, it's probably too late.
If I were giving you a speech on HP today, I would tell you that we believe this is not a future to be feared, but a future to be embraced. I would tell you that as the only technology company that plays in all three areas of creation, distribution, and consumption, that we are leveraging HP technologies, services, solutions, and research to build out a digital media platform to help this industry capitalize on the digital revolution.
If you want to hear that speech, it will be delivered this afternoon by our chief strategy and technology officer -- Shane Robison. Among other things, he'll have exciting new announcements about the work we are doing to with companies like Dreamworks, Warner, Avid, Savvis, and Starbucks - companies that are embracing change.
The digital revolution that I've just talked about will help define our capabilities -- but what about our character?
Many of you have written that in the 21st Century, we have entered a new era of democracy. For the first time in history, more than half of the people of the world live under governments of their own choosing. But what the digital age is also helping bring about is the complete democratization of information, and the removal of the traditional barriers of time, distance, even wealth. There used to be a time when access to information was the root of all power - for nations, for governments, for companies, and for people. Today, information about our companies is on the Web for all the world to say. Governments have much less control over what its citizens hear and see - as China has found with its 80 million new online subscribers. Even religious organizations don't have any secrets anymore.
This democratization process is completely changing the nature of authority. When individuals - when consumers know more, see more, and control more, they don't need us any more for access to information. They need us to add value, to add perspective that they don't see, to add understanding that they don't have.
As digital technology enlarges our sense of what is possible, consumers today not only expect more from us, they expect more of us. And this isn't just a challenge for this industry, it's a challenge for every industry. From health care to finance to banking to telecommunications, every industry being re-shaped by digital technology is finding itself being held to a higher level of accountability and responsibility.
What does that mean for this industry? With digital technology, in this interconnected world, nobody is in a better position than global media to build bridges, fight ignorance with truth, and help us see our world in all its complexity. I'm thinking of two areas in particular.
The first is the importance of perspective. At the rate images are coming at all of us today, the truth is hard to see. I've always thought broadcasters have been at their best when you help people sit back and reflect more thoughtfully. This is even more important given the rush of 24-hour news. We need more perspective, and context. We need more time for reflection and more distance to see the patterns that form the truth. I see images coming out of Iraq today, and I wonder how many Americans even understand that there are three principal religious groups at the center of forming a new Iraq. What does it mean? Why do they fight? What do they believe? What has to happen for them to come together peacefully, and bring our troops home safe?
This isn't just vital for the way stories are told - it's vital for the way history is told. More than ever before, what we remember for the ages is what we see and hear - whether it's a man standing in front of a tank in China or students on top of the Berlin Wall. Just think about the way our perception of Christ's last days has been affected by Mel Gibson's movie. I studied history at university. And I know that how history is told can define a nation's very mindset, its aspirations, its perceptions about itself and the world around it. Now, perhaps more than ever, the way facts are presented, the way news is told, will define our history. Quality, truth and integrity matter.
The second area I think about is our sense of what is possible. I think about stories like AIDS in Africa. Almost every one of the images I have in mind of AIDS in Africa is one of defeat and misery. I have seen so many stories of so much tragedy that it makes me wonder if we will ever be able to solve it. But I have also read stories that headway is being made in places, that there are real stories of hope and achievement and triumph. I wonder why we don't see more stories that celebrate human achievement. We need to see stories of people who are acting to make a positive difference in the world, who are acting to change the order of things, perhaps in large ways, perhaps in small but equally significant ways. It matters, because if all we ever hear about are problems and defeat and people who have done wrong, it creates cynicism and doubt. We can't make progress if everyone is a cynic or a pessimist. We can only make progress if people believe that things can be made better, that things can be made different, that change can happen. That's what stories of inspiration and achievement are about. They feed the soul and remind us that everything really is possible - that people really can change the world.
There is a person who has opened my eyes and many others to the role that broadcasters can play in our lives. One individual who epitomizes capability and character, who chose a different way. And I think it is a great credit to NAB that you have chosen to honor that individual here today, because Oprah Winfrey really has enlarged our sense of what is possible. Among her many talents, Oprah has proven her ability to draw huge audiences for serious questions; and she has proven that television can be used to inspire and uplift and educate and inform. And in the process, to help us all live better lives. If you doubt that, take a look at the footage of the trip she took to Africa.
So, what is asked of this generation? I think it is to use the capabilities of this age to uplift the character of this age; to use the greatest tools the world has ever seen not just to entertain, but to educate, to inform, to inspire, to uplift; and in the process, to make all of us believe a little bit more that we can solve the challenges of this age - to remind us that we can make the world a better place. That will do a lot more than define greatness for a new age. It will help strengthen ties between people; promote understanding and compassion; and act as a bridge between cultures. And if that sounds familiar it should: it is exactly the same high-minded goals that have guided this industry from the start, from the very first day those executives came together in Chicago (81 years ago). This industry has never been in a better place to be a force of enlightenment and progress for this world than you are today. We think this is a journey worth taking - and we look forward to taking it with you.