ABC Leaves NAB Over Anti-Network 'Jihad'

NAB is now a network-free trade group, following the departure by ABC following a lengthy disagreement over NAB's support of the 35 percent nationwide ownership cap.

Disney Corp. government relations boss Preston Padden minced no words in a June 17 letter to NAB President and CEO Eddie Fritts, hammering NAB's "jihad against the networks."

"For two years, we have endured (and helped to pay for) a non-stop stream of network bashing letters, lobbying and legal filings," he wrote. "We have tolerated our own trade association's patently false claims that our stations lagged behind affiliate stations in terms of local public service."

Padden called "hypocritical" the NAB's stance for loosening ownership restrictions for cross-ownership and television duopoly while opposing a loosening of the national cap.

"It exceeds even Washington's liberal allowance for cynicism for the owner of a group of 63 or 34 stations to claim that they are 'local' in each of their markets while ABC cannot be considered truly 'local' in the mere 10 markets where we operate stations!" Padden wrote.

But the effect may be more symbolic than anything else. NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said ABC paid about $500,000 in annual dues-not much in a $50 million budget.