Broadcasters from around the country met virtually this week as part of the 2021 State Leadership Conference (SLC), held online for the first time in NAB history. Attendees heard from NAB President and CEO Gordon H. Smith, Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (WA) and Jessica Rosenworcel, acting chair of the Federal Communications Commission. The NAB Government Relations and Legal and Regulatory Affairs teams provided briefings, and attendees were treated to performances from BMI artists Chris Janson and Rachel Platten.

The State Leadership Conference is an annual gathering of 500 radio and TV station representatives from across the country. The conference helps educate the broadcast industry to advocate on relevant legislative and regulatory issues. Then broadcasters meet with their members of Congress and FCC representatives to ensure they understand how policy issues may impact local stations, as well as their listeners and viewers. NAB’s Broadcast Policy Agenda can be viewed at

“Our industry overcame great financial obstacles to help our communities endure many difficult days, providing a source of comfort, hope and connection as we were required to distance ourselves from friends, family and colleagues,” said Smith in his prepared remarks. Smith and many other speakers at the event thanked broadcasters for going above and beyond to serve their communities in 2020.

“Again and again, stations stepped up,” said Rosenworcel. “America’s broadcasters have shown an industry-wide commitment to using your platforms to help your audiences get through this pandemic.”

Sen. Cantwell noted, “America’s radio and television broadcasters are essential to our landscape and have been critical to many Americans’ way of life and connecting communities throughout our state and throughout the United States.”

Many speakers also gave tribute to Smith as he prepares to transition into an advisory role with NAB, handing over the reins of the organization to Chief Operating Officer Curtis LeGeyt.

A number of additional events were held in the week leading up to SLC and are now available to view on demand.

Smith spoke with Rep. G.K. Butterfield (NC-01), discussing the broadcaster supported Expanding Broadcast Ownership Opportunities Act, which would bring back the diversity tax certificate to encourage broadcast station ownership for women and people of color. 

Smith also moderated a panel titled “Covering the Biden White House” with CBS News Radio White House Correspondent Steven Portnoy, ABC News Washington Correspondent Karen Travers and Senior White House Reporter at NBC News Digital Shannon Pettypiece, who discussed effects of the COVID pandemic on White House news coverage, the role of the daily press briefing and the challenges of the 24/7 news cycle.

NAB Chief Diversity Officer and NAB Leadership Foundation President Michelle Duke led Diversity Best Practices and Trends: How to Develop the Best Strategy for Your Organization,” a conversation with Sarah Harris, vice president, Social Impact, Audacy and Katherine Barnett, senior vice president, Human Resources, Hearst Television, to examine tried and true best practices and explore emerging trends in the diversity, equity and inclusion space.