LAS VEGAS -- It was a coming home of sorts for CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves Tuesday at the National Association of Broadcasters annual show here.
During a question and answer session with Moonves, NAB President Gordon Smith said one of his greatest achievements in his two-year tenure with the broadcast industry's lobbying group was bringing CBS and Fox back into the NAB fold last May. All four networks quit NAB during the last decade over policy disputes but CBS and Fox were the last to return.
When asked why CBS returned, Moonves said he felt that given the issues facing the industry, such as the battle over broadcasters' spectrum, it was important for the industry to work together. "I looked at how cable was operating, they were operating with a bigger voice than we were," Moonves said. "We need the power of being together."
Moonves also credited Smith for his role in CBS's decision to return to NAB. He said Smith's speech at NAB's 2010 show helped persuade Moonves that the association was focused on the same issues the network cared about. "I want to follow you into battle," Moonves told Smith.
Moonves also discussed the Federal Communications Commission's incentive auction proposal, aimed at enticing broadcasters to voluntarily give up some of their spectrum in exchange for some of the proceeds from the auction of those airwaves. Incentive auctions are a central part of the FCC's plan to try to free up more spectrum for mobile broadband services.
"As long as it remains voluntary, we're fine with that because we are not going to volunteer," Moonves quipped. But he warned that, "As we see in Washington, things change. Deals are made. Suddenly that word voluntary incentive gets changed."