Panel gains strength with NBC

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After a seven-year hiatus, NBC Universal is rejoining the National Association of Broadcasters.

NAB, which previously counted all four major networks as members, was down to only ABC until Monday's announcement. All four had exited the organization when NAB refused to support raising the ownership cap beyond 35% of the national TV audience. The cap has since been raised by Congress to 39%.

Losing the networks led to a perception on Capitol Hill that NAB was losing influence and dividing the voice of the broadcast industry.

"We are pleased to rejoin the NAB and help give the broadcast side of our business a powerful and united voice in Washington at a time of incredibly rapid change and numerous legislative challenges," NBC Uni president and CEO Jeff Zucker said.

NAB president and CEO David Rehr hailed the NBC Uni decision, which coincided with the opening day of NAB's annual convention in Las Vegas.

"We are delighted to have NBC Universal in NAB," he said. "There is no question that NAB will be stronger as an organization with NBCU as a member."

The company's 10 NBC O&Os also get membership. In addition, Jay Ireland, president of NBC Uni Television Stations and Network Operations, will be invited to fill a network television seat on the NAB board of directors.

Most of the policy disagreements that led to NBC's withdrawal in 2000 have been resolved, NBC Uni executive vp and general counsel Rick Cotton said.

"After a positive meeting with the new leadership, we believe that the issues that led us to withdraw are behind us and unlikely to reassert themselves," he said.

Fox Broadcasting Co. has no plans to rejoin NAB, according to a spokesman. A spokesman for CBS Corp. declined comment.
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