Damn it. The 22nd annual Public Radio Programmers Convention had just wrapped up. It was an encouraging, energetic convention full with creative people and innovative ideas and concepts. The one distinct difference between commercial radio and public radio is that the latter doesn’t play the victim. Nor do they have to be convinced that the future of radio is localism coupled with rights to every viable broadcasting platform. They fully recognize that their new market is on line. I was about to write something about the convention and its many creative participants when I got the news.
I’d also written up another piece congratulating the National Association of Broadcasters for not trying to jump the gun and sign, seal and deliver a new President and CEO in time for the NAB Radio Show in Philadelphia this week. That move, I wrote, would’ve harkened back to the years when do-or-die mergers would be hastily wrapped up to meet the NAB convention deadline. Remember the years when Karmazin, Ginsburg, Michaels, and others who are no longer part of the terrestrial radio cartel would strut through the halls of the NAB basking in the glory of their latest radio mega-merger?
The NAB has been without an official leader since David “Fumbles” Rehr was fired last June. That was the best news from that org is years. We got through the summer comparatively unscathed.
My take was to let the NAB Gang of Four mind the store, with COO Janet McGregor as acting President, while leaving it up to both the radio and television industry to decide whether or not one organization should handle both radio and television – or would it be best for each to have its own association.
So who’s Fumbles’ follow-up?
Former Senator Gordon H. Smith, come on down.
Barring contingencies, the 57-year old former two-term Republican Senator from Oregon will officially take over Fumbles’ former functions on November 1st. He’ll make a brief appearance at the NAB Radio Show this week.
Prior to entering politics, Smith took over his family's troubled business, Smith Frozen Food, one of the largest distributors of its kind in the U.S. Though he turned the business around, he was hit with charges of poor working conidtions, waste water violations, employing illegal immigrants, and low pay. Only a third of his work force was full-time and receiving health insurance. When Smith entered politics, his wife Sharon took over as its President, CEO, and board chairwoman.
He’s one of the guys that the NAB used to lobby. Now he goes from getting his butt kissed to butt kisser – a feat the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) has down to a French kiss science.
He took the nets side over his constituents and consumers when he voted against the sale and use of DVRs, like TiVo. Now, he’ll have to apply reverse logic to do battle against the RIAA on Capitol Hill. The good news is that he’ll also be on the side of consumers by beating back those thieves.
motivated versus acting on logic and opinion remains to be seen.
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, this joke’s already making the rounds: The other unemployed Mormon, Mitt Romney must’ve turned it down. But don’t laugh. There’s a six degrees of Romney and radio as a founder of private equity firm Bain Capital, which now shares ownership of the cracked and cratered Clear Channel with Thomas H. Lee, another Boston-based p.e.f.
I don’t care if Smith’s religion calls for him to paint his face blue and howl at the moon to chase the devil away. My concern is that, unlike his fumbling, bumbling, letter-writing
predecessor, he will stand up to the radio industry's Satan - The Record Industry
Association of America (RIAA) and have enough juice on Capitol Hill to beat back those bastards and show that organization’s true colors and intentions.
So far, the NAB has given away the store these thieves time and time again. The best Fumbles could do was lob verbal dud grenades at the RIAA and others challenging the radio industry.
"I am honored to have been selected as NAB's new president and consider this an opportunity of a lifetime," sayeth Mr. Smith. "As radio and television stations embrace new technologies and new business opportunities, I look forward to articulating to public policymakers the unique and positive role played by local and network broadcasters in the fabric of American society."
"We conducted an exhaustive search to identify the very best individual to lead a great trade association," said NAB Gang of Four member and Joint Board Chairman Steve Newberry. "We're convinced we have found that person in Gordon Smith. His background as a lawyer, a statesman, and as an entrepreneur — coupled with his extensive knowledge of broadcast issues from having served many years on the Commerce Committee — make Gordon eminently qualified to represent the interests of free and local broadcasters in Washington."
We know he's a television guy. Whether he has the stuff to be radio's savior remains to be seen.
And, no, Smith has not been briefed on Clear Channel CEO John Hogan’s been there, done that, and what did it really amount to in the end style of management either.
Please, whatever you do, don’t show him the RAB’s Best of Radio website.
We don’t want to discourage him before he starts his new job.