After a long period of being apart, the Arkansas Broadcasters Association (ABA) is preparing to meet again this spring at ARKCON 2022. After a postponement in 2021, this year’s reconvened convention — taking place May 12-13 in Little Rock — will be free to all members.
Radio World spoke with ABA President and CEO Luke Story about the upcoming show, Arkansas Radio Centennial Recognition and what it’s important to understand about broadcasters in the “natural state” of our country.
Radio World: How does it feel to finally be able to meet in person after being separated for the past few years?
Luke’s story: I think we can all agree that we live and work in a people-oriented world, especially in our profession. It is the life blood of what we do.
RW: What will the show do to support Arkansas broadcasters, especially in light of the long absence between shows?
Narrative: It’s about providing our members with enough time and opportunities to reconnect, reunite with colleagues and network. On the first day we will have an open reception and networking hours and time to meet vendors. The second day a one-day engineering seminar will operate simultaneously. the [breakfast on Friday] will include an ABA business meeting.
RW: Is there a big issue Arkansas broadcasters need to keep an eye on?
Narrative: Streaming is great. In trying to master it, we [conducted] a membership survey and it opened the eyes of the association to see the need here. [Education] is a multi-step process — to educate them and explain to them why this is important. Everything is linked. We have to convince broadcasters that this is a new technology to exploit. We want to put it in front of them, soothe their nerves. Many said they didn’t have the manpower. But it’s not a huge capital outlay. Now is the time to strike.
RW: What other areas of concern do Arkansas broadcasters have?
Narrative: Streaming is one. We will have a session on streaming which will be divided into two parts: the how and the why. [Josh Braun from BlueFrame Technology will talk about how broadcasters can go about streaming high school sports programs]. This session will tell you how to get started, what equipment you need and who to talk to. Really, it will offer a full explanation on how to get started. The second session will be the why. [Braun will delve into why stations should start investing in streaming.] We’ll talk about how broadcasters can monetize this.
The second thing we’ll be talking about a lot, aside from streaming, is big tech. We need to remind broadcasters that they are technology, they have been at the forefront [in the media industry], but many see big tech as competition. But I say, maybe you can use some of this technology to augment what you’re doing. It’s good to kiss her. We’re going to look at what might be on the horizon.
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RW: Who will lead some of these discussions?
Narrative: We will have a legal and regulatory watch with a lawyer associated with NAB. Larry Walke, NAB associate legal and regulatory counsel, will speak alongside Frank Montero, a broadcast, media and technology attorney at Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth in the Legal and Regulatory Conversation at the corner of fire of convention. [Issues covered include multiple ownership rules and regulations, political broadcasting rules and big technology.] This session will be moderated by Kyle King, incoming Chairman of the Board of the Arkansas Broadcasting Association.
We will also delve deeper into big tech policy and its impact on our industry.
A keynote speech with [former NFL player] Keith Jackson will offer a rally call and deliver an uplifting message about being out there, continuing to be leaders in the community.
The Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) will also be represented. RAB Senior Vice President Jeff Schmidt will host two sales sessions: a “what now/what’s next” question as we approach this post-pandemic period and a session on brand advertising strategies independent of the platform.
Discussions at the engineering seminar will focus on supply chain issues. Broadcasters need equipment such as transmitters. But sellers cannot deliver for several months. Some sellers will therefore be at the show.
We are also celebrating the centennial of Arkansas radio. This will be held at the Arkansas Old State House during a reception for past presidents and the current board of directors.
RW: Why did the ABA decide to open the 2022 convention to members for free? What is the option for non-members?
Narrative: We thought it was the right thing to make it a free event. It is free for all members of the association. We also offer discounted prices to non-members as we want everyone to have the opportunity to attend.
RW: The last two years have been difficult for so many people. What have you noticed as our industry begins to emerge in a post-pandemic world?
Narrative: I will say that our members have shown – over the past two years – that they will put service to others above self and profit in order to serve the communities in which they find themselves. We recognize what [they have been] go through.
Over the past two years, our work has all been based on advocacy. Although our advocacy never loses value, the lifeblood of what we do is to bring people together. I’m excited about this. I think what our members will get out of this is that they’ll be able to talk to their colleagues and competitors and learn that “I’m not the only one going through this”, like managing people, the amount of publicity that should be about digital and what tactics exist.
All of these conversations can take place here at this convention. I told the board and staff that no matter what happens or how many people show up [to the convention], that it will be a victory. It is a victory that we are able to organize an event and give our members the opportunity to come.
RW: There’s a story, isn’t there, that really illustrates how deep family ties and community support run into Arkansas broadcasting?
Narrative: As a special tribute to the centennial of our state’s radio, we are going to have a fully restored GatesAir 250-A transmitter on display at ARKCON. What makes it even more special is that we will surprise the current owner of KBTM (FM) station with this restored 1938 transmitter.
The gentleman who is now the station’s current contract engineer, Palmer Johnson II, was named after his father – who in turn was named after the original owner of KBTM, Jay Palmer Beard. [The younger Palmer] is now the station’s contract engineer. Palmer Johnson II’s grandmother was also part of a singing group called The Johnson Family that performed on the station. In fact, her grandmother went into on-air work at KBTM.
RW: What is your assessment of how broadcasters in Arkansas have fared over the past two years?
Narrative: I am proud. Without a doubt. I believe the pandemic has brought to life the meaning of the words “community service” through the actions of our members. They literally say “I don’t care about making a profit at this point, I want to do what is expected of me for my community.” I think now more than ever it’s [necessary to have] local journalism for news and information. A few weeks ago there was bad weather here and [stations had] beds in the studio because the staff was not going to miss a second to deliver the news.
I have been so impressed with our members’ commitment to the industry and the association. [At the start of the pandemic] so many things were happening so fast and the broadcasters were being asked to deliver what they were always supposed to deliver, times 10. So this show will be a relaxed and fun environment with professional development so everyone can reconnect and have some camaraderie.