It looks good for RTNDA

Jul 30, 2001  •  Post A Comment

The good news for the Radio-Television News Directors Association is that advance registration for its convention Sept. 12 to 15 in Nashville is running ahead of last year.
As of July 25, RTNDA President Barbara Cochran said some 766 people-most of them news directors and educators-had registered for this year’s gathering. A year ago, advance registration stood at 612 by this time, and the final tally was approximately 4,000 (including some 1,400 exhibitors).
The bad news is that belt-tightening at station groups and networks is certain to be felt at the gathering that generates 50 percent of RTNDA’s annual budget.
Travel cutbacks have reduced attendance at major industry conventions all year as some station groups pass up what Cox Communications executives describe as “celebrations,” and others, such as Post-Newsweek Stations and Young Broadcasting, limit convention travel to those who are giving or getting awards, making speeches or appearing on panels.
The networks have canvassed their affiliate bodies and, having projected that local participation may run 50 percent below good years, are trimming their own plans or watching their spending accordingly.
The governing board of NBC News Channel is scheduled to meet, but the channel is dispensing with its usual affiliate meeting in Nashville.
The network is underwriting the general session on the future of local news to be moderated by weekend “Nightly News” anchor John Siegenthaler. A spokeswoman attributed the cutbacks to “budget issues we all face.”
CNN Newsource does not have affiliate conventions, and the annual RTNDA gathering is “kind of our way of saying thanks to people,” said Newsource Sales President Susan Grant. A spokesman said Newsource is not lowering its RTNDA profile this year.
CBS News is not canceling any of its plans, which range from a full affiliates day, with business meeting and a golf outing, to a reception and dinner. But having heard that only 40 to 60 affiliate news directors are planning to attend (as opposed to 140 in good years), it is booking smaller rooms for the events.
ABC News, which expects about 70 of more than 200 affiliates to be represented, will fund the Edward R. Murrow cocktail party but has canceled its usual meeting with affiliates at RTNDA.
Ms. Cochran and her staff have had their eye on the dark economic clouds as they planned everything from discounts ($100 off the registration fee for those who had signed up by the end of June; a 10 percent discount for those who register via regional newsletters) to programs: New technology and management sessions are plentiful, and, “I think the word `budget’ appears in at least three session titles,” she said. An all-expenses-paid convention trip will be awarded to one person who has registered by the end of August.
Ms. Cochran believes Nashville is conveniently located. “There is a huge number of markets within easily drivable distances,” she said.
For those who cannot consider driving, with recent airfare cuts on top of the registration discounts, “You could do this for around $1,200 for the whole week,” she said.
“My argument would be that in this day and age and in this economic climate, the RTNDA convention is not a luxury, it’s a necessity,” Ms. Cochran said.