NAB has had enough of gruff

B'casters organization looks to go in another direction after Rehr exit

The National Association of Broadcasters said it intends to act quickly to replace David Rehr, who resigned abruptly last week from his nearly $700,000-a-year position as president and CEO of one of the nation's most influential lobbying organizations.

"We want to move swiftly to make this hire," said joint board chairman Jack Sander, who noted the NAB board of directors intends to meet this week to develop criteria for what it wants in a new leader. "We are looking for the best person in America."

Once the criteria are developed, Sander said, the NAB expects to craft a list of "the best candidates to do the best possible job for local broadcasters. We want somebody who knows our industry and knows about broadcasting. If they are not in broadcasting already, we want someone who can get up to speed quickly. We have people on staff who can help them get up to speed."

Rehr's aggressive style occasionally rubbed Washington the wrong way and left members of Congress grumbling, wishing for the return of the less combative days of Eddie Fritts, the association's top dog for nearly 23 years until he was ousted in a coup led by Phil Lombardo that began during the NAB convention in 2004 and ended with Fritts' departure in fall 2005. (Lombardo, CEO of Citadel Communications, was then joint board chairman.)

"If there is a loss of luster, then we will fix it," Sander said. "We want to be in the real world at all times." He noted that "there are tons and tons of issues that we tackle every day, some of them more high-profile than others, but the reputation of the NAB is paramount to us doing business."

Sander, a television executive at Belo Broadcasting, said the biggest problem facing the radio industry is the looming Performance Rights Act pending on Capitol Hill.

"The performance tax would be very, very damaging to local radio stations across the country," he said.

He indicated that the NAB likely will not back off of its tack of not negotiating with record labels over fees. "Why we would support labels over Ma-and-Pa stations is beyond me," he said.

Jeffrey Yorke is Washington bureau chief and business editor at Radio & Records.