A Welcome 'Thumbs Up' for Smith

Paul McLane is editor in chief.

The broadcasters who constitute and direct the National Association of Broadcasters have given a big vote of confidence to Gordon Smith as their leader and front man. It's a smart move.

Smith, the former U.S. senator, joined the association in late 2009 succeeding David Rehr. But it was near-legendary leader Eddie Fritts that NAB honchos really were trying to replace, seeking someone who could approach Fritts' knack for working effectively within the beltway environment, who could be a forceful advocate for broadcasters as "stewards of the airwaves" without digging his elbows too deeply into the wrong ribs.

They found their guy in Smith, the pragmatic Republican; and now after two and a half years, the broadcasters who hired him have decided he should be here for the long haul. The board has given him a five-year contract extension as president/CEO, through 2016, at which time Smith will be only 64.

It's a smart move. Smith is not a former broadcaster like Fritts but he knows business and entrepreneurship as well as politics; he quickly put any concerns about his suitability behind him. He's smart and charming. More importantly, he understands how the Hill works; and broadcasters trust him. Paul Karpowicz, the association's joint board chair, used the phrase "uncommon grace, savvy and determination" to describe Smith.

NAB believes it faces "two potential game-changing issues" right now, namely the spectrum bill for television and performance rights for radio. Smith's contract extension is a thumbs-up not only for the man but for the lower-key yet persistent, no-nonsense approach he has brought to the process of lobbying legislators for broadcasters' interests. Expect more of it in the years to follow.




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