Vox Populi: The O'Shaughnessy Files

By William O’Shaughnessy | Go to book overview

ONE TALL ORDER: A MEMO TO CENTRAL
CASTING ABOUT THE CRITERIA FOR
LEADERSHIP AT THE NAB

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is our
Washington-based national trade association. Over the
years there has been a running battle: Do we need a
politician-lobbyist or a broadcaster to represent American
radio and television stations in the nation’s capital?
Former Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon is our new leader
in 2010. He succeeded David Rehr, a brainy, dynamic
Washington insider (and Bush loyalist), when Barack
Obama was elected president. In this piece I tried to
identify the qualities we should look for in a leader. (For
many years I served as chairman of the NAB’s Public
Affairs Committee, which gave me a platform to advocate
for First Amendment rights for our profession. So I had
more than a passing interest in the direction of the NAB.
Its record on free speech matters over the years has not
always been so stellar.)

A daunting task awaits our new leader. The animus against broadcasting is growing each day, and it knows no ideological bounds. The Religious Right and the Intellectual Left are on the march against our most basic freedoms. And the single-issue “values” zealots are in full-throated control of the assault.

Many TV execs are intimidated by economic and legislative threats. And we radio broadcasters sail serenely by with our newfound wealth from consolidation … the buying up of small, regional community stations by absentee owners and speculators. (All this, of course, before the days of “penny” stocks.)

The First Amendment has become “trading” material, perhaps because we have brought much of this upon ourselves. The new NAB president must step up and initiate a frank discussion with the

-42-

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