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Notes From NAB

The future of digital TV delivery was on display at the NAB show at the Las Vegas Hilton, and you didn't even have to leave the the Hilton hotel to make the few-hundred-yard trek to the adjacent convention center.

There is an Apple iPod vending machine in the lobby of the North Tower of the Hotel, where high-rollers can plunk down a few hundred in winnings to get the latest gear.

In a case that looks like the the double-door milk/beer cooler in the local convenience store, I could buy a 30 GB Apple Video iPod for a cool $269.99, or a 4 GB Nano in red, green, blue, grey or silver for only $199.99–everything seems to end in .99, instead of .95 as I am used to back home.

The vending machine takes Visa or Mastercard, and also includes mini-speakers, cases and other accessories….

The other future of digital TV was also available for tire-kicking, literally, on the sidewalk outside the convention center.

A Ford Escape DTV SUV called the Digit Dasher, meant to be a mobile advertisement for the digital switch, was parked there. It will travel Memphis to Minneapolis, from New York to L.A., from the Redwood forest, to the Gulfstream…well, you get the point, as part of the NAB's DTV public education campaign.

The van is white, with a Howard Johnson's–or Miami Dolphins–aqua and orange color scheme for its signage. A banner on the side advertises the Feb. 17, 2009, DTV transition date and  new slogan.  "Are You ready?," which was being pitched to stations by NAB at a recent legislative fly-in in Washington.

It seems both an advisory to the general public to get ready, and to broadcasters themselves to check the flaps and fuel gauge and get ready for takeoff. The date is painted on, though some Democrats on Capitol Hill would advise it to be in erasable marker just in case.

The SUV also touts, NAB's online home for all things digital, and a smiley-face TV set character with arms outstretched as though embracing the future…

NAB held its leadership dinner Sunday night, where it honors broadcasters who have contributed to the NAB pack and gotten others to do the same.

Broadcasting veteran Russ Withers, owner of Withers Broadcasting was the undisputed leader of the PAC, winning the Wally Jorgenson award for most money raised–for the 12th year in a row.

The award is being retired in favor of a new recognition program–The A List, in which the first 100 broadcasters who give the maximum $5,000 will get a special numbered pin. It resonated of the Bush pioneers program. NAB President David Rehr is a veteran Bush fund-raiser.

Withers got pin #1, with #2 going to Howard Anderson, president/CEO of KHWY Los Angeles. NAB President David Rehr called Anderson an arm-twister, and Anderson, who worked in the casino business under Howard Hughes, played along.

Anderson told the assemble bigwigs that when he was working in Las Vegas, he met a guy named Guido and they were still friends. Anderson suggested that if broadcasters did not pony up, Guido "can still very easily find out where your kids go to school."

Withers not only raises lots of money for NAB's political activities, he plans to raise some key issues in Washington next week, where he will testify on behalf of NAB against the Sirius/XM satellite merger. "You know what happens when you have Park Place and Boardwalk, he said.

With the Congress tightening its rules about industry-underwritten travel, the dinner was legislator light, though Senator Mary Landrieu was there on the eve of announcing–unless you have already read B&C–a new bill to give broadcasters heightened first responder status when it comes to access to fuel and other supplies during emergencies.

For anyone concerned that Rehr's Republican chops would not translate to a Democratic majority, the NAB president said the group was meeting with all members of Congress and was well-positioned to push its pro-broadcasters position.

Rehr said NAB would work hand-in-hand with the National Religious Broadcasters to pursue policy goals–NRB President Frank Wright was in attendance–and also said NAB had been working at the state level on getting resolutions opposing the Sirius/XM merger. "NAB will stay on the offensive,"Rehr promised

By John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.