by Connie McMullen
Bob Fisher is a familiar face to most radio and television audiences. He hosts the frequently viewed program Nevada Observations, which has aired weekly on 35 stations statewide since 1994.
Observations has been viewed by thousands of Nevadans. A product of the Nevada Broadcasters Association, of which Fisher is president and CEO, interviews have ranged from famous people and personalities to lifestyle issues, topics that affect our every day lives.
Observations is Nevada’s most watched and listened to public affairs program. “People listen because it’s so personal,” Fisher explains.
Unquestionably, Bob Fisher is an accomplished and skilled interviewer, but he has had many accomplishments that extend beyond the microphone. The state’s first NBA president, I met Fisher when the television industry was converting to the DTV system. Worried that seniors and boomers would be reluctant to convert or give up their TVs, he assembled broadcasters and people affiliated with the industry to partake in the plan of action to disseminate the message getting consumers ready for the DTV transition.
A few years later, I was called upon to support a mission advocated by the Nevada Silver Haired Legislative Forum to establish a Statewide Alert System for the Safe Return of Missing Endangered Older Persons. Boomers worried about aging parents wandering from home, placing themselves in danger was the genius of the Silver Alert, which took two legislative sessions to develop and activate. Fisher worked with the forum, senior advocates, caregivers and the Department of Public Safety on implementation. His contribution was the establishment of criteria; who would be eligible for an activation of a Silver Alert? (Silver Alert is for missing elders, often confused with Amber Alert which is for abducted children.)
Broadcasting has changed a lot since the first days of television. Boomers were the first generation to enjoy black and white TV. Today many boomers are working just to keep up with today’s technology; the Internet, text messaging, social media, the iPad, cell phones, the Kindle, and computer. Technology has changed information dissemination worldwide.
“Broadcasting has been given an extraordinary opportunity,” Fisher said, adding “as long as broadcasting is ahead of the curve, there is a place for both radio and television.”
Fisher believes the future of radio is public service and emergency warning. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a network of radio and television stations, and cable television operators that is available 24/7 to inform the public of a pending emergency, disaster or crisis.
“Radio also offers localism. You can listen to satellite radio and it will talk about weather across the United States, and then refer to Ely, Nevada. We know from hurricane Katrina, from Sandy, the only thing that gets through during emergency disaster is radio.”
In 2006, EAS expanded to next-generation media -- cell phones and the Internet -- in providing more critical information. Fisher says because of natural disasters and tragedies that Northern Nevada has faced over the past few years, public warning is very much a part of public service programming. He believes the next technological change coming is an FM chip in cell phones.
The future of television is different. Fisher points to KSNV, Las Vegas television station owner Jim Rogers (KRNV-TV 4, Reno; KENV-TV 10, Elko) who has talked about programming less of the nationally televised syndicated shows. He’s not the first. The cost of purchasing syndicated shows like “Wheel of Fortune” are very expensive.” There are a number of TV stations in Nevada that are starting to produce more local programming to attract viewers at a lower cost. Rogers is programming more daytime local news.
The future of TV programming and its ability to continue to attract large audiences is more complex. While boomers may resist new technology a growing number of computer savvy consumers are turning to mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPad and the laptop to subscribe to online video service offered by Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc., which is less expensive than satellite and cable. In fact, much of the younger generation is opting to ditch landline phones and television subscriptions altogether, and instead are turning to electronic gadgets for their news and entertainment. Many consumers are downloading apps for specific programs, while other viewers are using TV antenna’s to reach digital signals.
Still Fisher believes there is a place for television in the next generation media if owners and operators stay ahead of the game.
Fisher became a part of the NBA 18 years ago. The NBA Board were looking for the first ever full-time professional. “What attracted them was that I had experience working in the non-profit community and I was not a broadcaster. While that seems strange, I came to the table with no baggage.” Working for the NBA has been the greatest work Fisher has ever done. “I have had the opportunity to make a difference.”
In addition to the NBA, Fisher has served on the Nevada Homeland Security Commission. Former Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons recognized Nevada broadcasters as First Responders, the only state in the country that classifies broadcasters as first responders in statute.
On any given day, you can catch Observations on several stations such as KOLO-TV 8, KTVN-TV 2, KAME-TV 21, KRNS-TV 27, and KRXI-TV 11. On radio, Observations is aired on KOH-780 AM in Reno, KTHO-590 AM in Stateline, KVLV-980 AM and KVLV-993 FM both in Fallon as well as KDWN-720 AM in Las Vegas, and KWNA-92.7 FM in Winnemucca. Additionally, the program is broadcast on 14 radio stations in Southern Nevada.