NAB looks to shift gears

Organization eyes new direction after Rehr exit

WASHINGTON -- The National Association of Broadcasters says it intends to act quickly in replacing David Rehr, who abruptly resigned last week from his nearly $700,000 a-year position as president/CEO of one of the most influential lobbying organizations in America.

"We want to move swiftly to make this hire," said Joint Board chairman Jack Sander, who noted the NAB's 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, said Sanders, 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 political Washington the wrong way and left some members of Congress grumbling, wishing for the return of the less combative days of Eddie Fritts, the NAB's top dog for nearly 23 years until he was ousted in a Phil Lombardo-led coup 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 with Belo Broadcasting, said that the single-biggest problem facing the radio industry is the looming Performance Rights Act now pending on Capitol Hill.

"The performance tax would be very, very damaging to local radio stations across the country." He indicated that the NAB will not likely back off of its current tack of not negotiating with record labels over fees. "Why we would support labels over Ma and Pa stations is beyond me," he said.