The News of David Rehr


The news of David Rehr’s resignation as Eddie Fritts’ replacement at the NAB was not nearly as surprising as the instant analysis from people in the media who are not actually in the business of owning and operating broadcast outlets.

They seem to think that Rehr’s sins involved the lack of success in stopping XM and Sirius from merging and his refusal to negotiate a performance royalty.

Although I was a critic of Rehr, it wasn’t those two items which upset me.

It was the fact that we as broadcasters are picking the wrong fights and fighting the wrong way.

And much of that is rooted in the shift of owners from being real media people to bean counters.

Frank Stanton and Bill Paley were not risk-averse butt kissers.  Neither were Dan Burke and Tom Murphy.  Or General David Sarnoff.  Or guys like Lowry Mays and John Barger.

I’m fortunate to have been part of the next generation…you know, the group which came along just before bean counters and Wall Street punks all of a sudden found broadcasting fashionable and then not so much—which is why we are where we are today.

Hiring a guy who was a beer industry lobbyist—however skillful he was—would have been unthinkable back when broadcasting was an industry where the players had some respect for themselves and a healthy skepticism of elected officials from both parties.

David Rehr wasn’t the problem.  He did what he was told to do and he’s not a bad guy.

But if we want to start winning battles again, we need to start picking them wisely and be a whole lot less reverent of the political class in Washington.

The XM-Sirius battle was a complete waste of time and resources.

The royalty battle needs to be fought by suggesting to all of these clowns trying to pick our pockets that they better be careful what they wish for because the worst thing which might happen is that they just might get it.

Maybe they’d like to cover our negative cash flow.

Mostly, however, we need to stop being scared of our own shadows.

If I were the leadership of the NAB, I’d first take my hat in my hand and on bended knee ask Mr. Fritts to help find a replacement.  And I’d also ask Steve Largent of CTIA and Frank Keating of the American Council of Life Insurers for their advice.

But the best pick the NAB could make would be useless unless we change our own attitude towards Washington.

Don’t send our new representative to talk with half-wits like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi with his or her hands tied behind his or her back.

If I’ve said this once, I’ve said it a thousand times.  They need us a whole lot more than we need them.  We should start acting like it.

–Fred Weinberg