David Rehr, president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, stepped down from the post yesterday. Rehr took the reins of the NAB more than three years ago when the venerable Eddie Fritts retired after nearly 23 years. Rehr, a teetottling Tab drinker, came to the NAB in 2005 from the National Beer Wholesalers Association.
News of his departure circulated Wednesday after a reported conference call between Rehr and board members. Rehr said the move was self-directed, though it was quite sudden. One insider nonetheless said he was convinced that Rehr got up that day intending to resign.
“David has been a fantastic leader and I was surprised,” said Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Electronics Association and a veteran lobbyist. Shapiro’s CEA often is either at loggerheads or aligned with the NAB on issues. “He served broadcasters and their industry well.”
After news of his resignation broke, the NAB issued this statement from Rehr:
“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.”
NAB Joint Board Chairman Jack Sander also weighed in. “In large part due to David’s efforts, we have a very solid infrastructure in place. Our senior staff members are experienced and extremely talented. Our board of directors and members are a powerful force comprised of the best minds in broadcasting.”
Rehr, a Republican who holds a doctorate in economics, had a string of strike-outs at the NAB. Under his watch, TV broadcasters have had to endure a changed DTV deadline date and a slew of requirements related to that, including public service announcements, call centers and community outreach. He was unable to secure multicast must-carry for TV stations, and he's been stymied at nearly every juncture of the fight to put unlicensed devices in unused broadcast spectrum. Regulators have also increased public service reporting requirements and cracked down on indecency with the support of the Supreme Court.
On the radio side, he made a pitched battle against the Sirius-XM satellite merger with the catchphrase “government-sanctioned monopoly.” Shapiro noted certain successful elements of Rehr’s tactics.
“He boldly made the most ridiculous case possible on the XM-Sirius merger--that it would produce a monopoly,” Shapiro said. “Yet this strategy worked and produced a huge delay in approval and a weakening of XM and Sirius. He led the NAB through a difficult transition to DTV, scoring points all the way with Congress. He blocked the performance royalty from getting through Congress--even with a weak case. He kept the NAB show strong and recruited back the networks to NAB. He has always been a professional and been honest and fair. My fondest hope is that his replacement keeps the trend of ethical and honest and trustworthy behavior to an organization which has had a history of reliance more on power politics and threats, than on facts and good policy.”
Rehr will "continue in his current role" through the transition phase in which Janet McGregor, chief operating and financial officer of the NAB, will assume day-to-day duties until a successor is named. -- Deborah D. McAdams