Eddie Fritts, the former longtime president of the National Association of Broadcasters will receive NAB’s Distinguished Service Award during the 2011 NAB Show.
Fritts, who served as NAB President for 23 years, will be honored “for his leadership in securing a variety of public policy victories that helped sustain broadcasting’s future during an era of intense competition and unprecedented change,” the association said. The award will be presented during the opening keynote session, April 11 in Las Vegas.
“For more than two decades, Eddie Fritts carried the banner for free and local broadcasting on Capitol Hill with integrity and distinction,” said NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith. “Eddie helped put NAB on the map as an advocacy force in Washington, and his accomplishments on behalf of radio and television stations — and the listeners and viewers that we serve — will be felt for decades to come. I’m honored to follow in his footsteps as head of NAB, and we are thrilled to present him with the prestigious Distinguished Service Award.”
NAB Joint Board Chairman Steve Newberry called Fritts “a remarkable leader and a relentless champion for over-the-air broadcasting. His bipartisan, bridge-building on Capitol Hill and string of legislative victories stand as a testament to Eddie’s understated Southern charm and advocacy skills.”
Fritts’ broadcasting roots go back to his days as a small market Mississippi radio broadcaster. He was a frequent visitor to Capitol Hill and the FCC and was elected to the NAB Radio Board and later elected NAB Joint Board Chairman. As President and CEO of NAB from 1982 until 2006, Fritts led the association to a series of legislative and regulatory victories, including the must-carry/retransmission consent provision included in the 1992 Cable Act, securing loaned spectrum for the transition from analog to digital television, and regulatory reform in the 1996 Communications Act that helped radio and television stations grow their businesses.
NAB’s successes during Fritts’s tenure prompted legendary Motion Picture Assn. of America lobbyist Jack Valenti to proclaim, “If you look at the top 20 associations in Washington, including my own, I would count Eddie Fritts as the wisest and ablest leader of them all.”
In 2006, Fritts launched The Fritts Group where he continues his work in Washington as a political consultant offering strategic counsel to clients in the areas of government relations, international affairs and public relations.
Prior recipients of the NAB Distinguished Service Award include Michael J. Fox, Mary Tyler Moore, President Ronald Reagan, Edward R. Murrow, Bob Hope, Walter Cronkite, Oprah Winfrey and Charles Osgood, among others.