Amid growing tension with the NAB Board, David Rehr agreed Wednesday to resign as President and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters. Rehr has served in the post three years and four months after succeeding 23-year veteran Eddie Fritts. Now the search is on for a new leader to represent broadcasters on Capitol Hill.
Rehr’s ouster was a surprise to many, coming so soon after an NAB Show in Las Vegas that turned out much better than had been feared in the current economic downturn. But RBR/TVBR sources say displeasure with Rehr had been building for some time, particularly among TV Board members. Rehr, you’ll recall, was brought to NAB from the National Beer Wholesalers Association in 2005 after Fritts, a former radio station owner, was pressured to retire by directors primarily from the television side.
Of course, everyone was saying nice things Wednesday in an official statement released a few hours after Rehr agreed to step down in a board telephone conference call.
“I have enjoyed leading America’s broadcasters through this time of change and challenge. Our efforts to educate America about the digital television transition have been enormously successful, and our effort to reinvigorate radio through the Radio Heard Here campaign is positioning radio broadcasters well for the future,” Rehr said in announcing that he will be leaving NAB.
“David made a significant contribution and has been extremely dedicated to making NAB a stronger organization,” NAB Joint Board Chairman Jack Sander said. “On behalf of the board of directors and our member stations, we thank him for his leadership and wish him well in the future,” the statement read.
Our sources say Sander and Rehr had butted heads repeatedly in recent months over Sander’s complaint that Rehr was not doing enough to raise money for the NAB Political Action Committee. Money talks on Capitol Hill and when Rehr applied for the NAB job he had bragged about more than tripling PAC contributions during his tenure at the beer association. Not only was the NAB PAC not able to match other industries in contributing to the campaigns of Senators and Representatives on key committees, but Rehr was closely aligned with Republicans in what is increasingly a Democratic town.
Despite his political connections, there were concerns that Rehr had not managed to establish personal connections to key lawmakers, even some Republicans. While he had succeeded in delaying the XM-Sirius merger and has so far blocked RIAA from winning performance fees, there was also a view among board members that Rehr hadn’t really scored a Congressional win on anything. And within the broadcasting community, he remained a Washington insider, not making a lot of contacts in the industry outside of the NAB Radio and TV Boards. Even as recently as last month in Las Vegas we still heard radio broadcasters referring to him as “the beer guy.”
Now it’s back to 2005, with the NAB Joint Board beginning the search for a new President and CEO. Rehr will remain for a brief transition. (We hear he’ll clear out his desk early next month.) Until a permanent successor is hired, NAB COO/CFO Janet McGregor will assume the day-to-day duties of President & CEO. McGregor joined NAB in 2008 after 26 years at Lockheed Martin.
RBR/TVBR observation: Now, will the NAB be willing to shell out the big bucks for a political heavy hitter, likely a former Member of Congress, or look within the broadcasting community for another good old boy (or gal) like Eddie? (RBR/TVBR states good old boy with deep affection and importantly meaning bringing in a grass roots broadcaster to fill the post.)
Meanwhile, we have to wonder about the job security of Jeff Haley at the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB), whose contract is up soon. The Television Bureau of Advertising (TVB) is already looking for a successor to Chris Rohrs, who decided to call it quits after 10 years at the helm. The broadcasting community is facing lots of changes in troubled times.
RBR/TVBR keeps stating we need to get back to our broadcast roots with today’s new media tools, so maybe it is time to bring in a broacaster with the working knowledge of today’s new media environment to fill these important and vital seats of leadership.