Dennis Wharton To Retire From NAB


In 1996, Dennis Wharton joined the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) as VP of Media Relations. A year later, he added SVP stripes, followed by an ascension to EVP in 2006. It followed roles as a journalist in Ohio and as Washington Bureau Chief for Tinseltown trade Variety.

Now, Wharton is retiring from the NAB. But, he won’t be disappearing. In fact, the association’s President/CEO will be seeing a lot of Wharton.

Effective July 1, Wharton will transition to a role as a senior advisor to Gordon Smith.

Following this move, a restructuring will see the NAB’s Communications and Marketing departments folded in to a new Public Affairs department to be overseen by Michelle Lehman, who has been EVP/Marketing since joining the NAB in 2006.

Ann Marie Cumming

For radio and TV broadcasters and the media organizations that cover the NAB, Ann Marie Cumming will be the new go-to person, as she takes on most of Wharton’s duties as SVP/Communications. Cumming has been with the NAB since 1994 and will oversee both media relations and the Research division; VP/Research Dan McDonald remains in place, reporting to Cumming.

Zamir Ahmed, the VP/Media Relations, will now assist Cumming, continuing in a role that began nine years ago.

Jen Jose, who has been with NAB since 2007, will serve as SVP/Public Affairs, overseeing all messaging, digital and public service activities of the organization. She will be assisted by NAB VP/Digital Gagan Nirula, a long-time NABer who oversees the digital and social media strategy for the association.

Jose also serves as chief speechwriter for Gordon Smith.

Shermaze Ingram, senior vice president of Marketing and Creative Services, will continue to oversee association marketing and event campaigns, as well as the creative services team. Ingram has been with the association since 2006, when she joined to serve as chief spokesperson for NAB’s digital television transition campaign.

In an e-mail to the NAB Board of Directors last night, Wharton called his retirement a “bittersweet moment” and described his tenure at NAB as “the privilege of my professional life.” Wharton wrote that he has been “in the catbird seat for countless moments in broadcast history” over 24 years, including the launch of HDTV, radio performance royalty fights, “wardrobe malfunctions,” and media consolidation battles. He said he is most proud of the unparalleled public service of local broadcast stations, which has been on prominent display during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Dennis is a fervent advocate for local broadcasting and his dedication to NAB and the broadcast industry cannot be overstated,” Smith said. “Journalists, broadcasters and colleagues alike value his extensive insight on industry-related issues and appreciate the enthusiasm and good humor he brings to his work. We wish Dennis all the best and are fortunate to have him stay on as an adviser to NAB.”

ACA Connects President/CEO Matthew M. Polka even took a moment to comment on Wharton’s retirement
“ACA Connects congratulates our good friend, NAB EVP Dennis Wharton, on his retirement from the nation’s leading radio and television station trade association,” he said. “We hope that in retirement, Dennis enjoys his cable TV package and is never made a bargaining chip in a ‘local signal interruption’ involving the loss of a ‘Free TV’ signal. All kidding aside, Dennis is a Washington legend, a Buckeye State expat admired by friends and colleagues and a trusted media source for comment on the dynamic video marketplace. NAB is saying farewell to a leader with too many friends to count. With Dennis saying goodbye, Washington is losing one of the good guys, and we are going to miss him.”

RBR+TVBR OBSERVATION: On June 21, 1996, some seven months into a 10+-year tenure at the former Radio & Records, our editor-in-chief snuck a two-sentence news brief into that week’s edition. It noted how, on June 23, Dennis Wharton would succeed Lynn McReynolds. Since that time, Wharton has been a vital asset and champion in delivering pertinent news and information from broadcast media’s biggest voice on Capitol Hill to all media organizations, including Streamline Publication’s Radio Ink. In a phone conversation Tuesday minutes after receiving official word of his retirement plans, Wharton shared with RBR+TVBR how just after joining the NAB he traveled to South Florida to meet with Chairman Eric Rhoads and the Radio Ink team, vividly recalling his enjoyment in taking a cruise on the Intracoastal Waterway. It’s this very geniality that has made Wharton such an important asset to the NAB, from the Radio Show to the grand NAB Show in Las Vegas and even at impromptu lunches at a Washington, D.C., Potbelly, RBR+TVBR‘s most recent meet-up with Wharton. Thank you, Dennis. While you will still be involved as a consultant to former Sen. Smith, the entire broadcast media industry owes you a debt of gratitute. You will be missed.