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O’Shaughnessy Sees NAB Board as Overly Focused on ‘Money Issues’

Comments on Rehr’s departure

William O’Shaughnessy says David Rehr’s departure from NAB “couldn’t have come at a worse time.”

In a commentary e-mailed to industry journalists, the New York broadcaster and First Amendment advocate called Rehr the quintessential Washington insider but said, “Unfortunately, his heft and clout proceed from his roots in the Republican Party … which is in considerable disarray, if not disrepute.”

But O’Shaughnessy described the outgoing NAB president/CEO as “a dynamic and articulate advocate and he employed all his considerable talents while in our service.” He said Rehr did his best to reflect the priorities of the NAB board, “whose focus always has been on structural, competitive and ‘money’ issues … with little time, effort or energy left for government intrusion into the product of our labors.”

O’Shaughnessy sees the departure through a familiar lens:

“Thus any fault, I fear, is not to be found in NAB’s executive suite, but rather in the lack of purpose and resolve among our fellow broadcasters on Free Speech matters. The group heads, absentee owners, ‘market managers’ and conglomerateurs have spent all their time on desperate efforts to revive their penny stocks and restore investor confidence. As a result, government intrusion into our profession has had to take a back seat. Broadcasters’ Free Speech rights have never been secured and critical First Amendment issues have been ignored by NAB. And by all of us.”

While Rehr shares some of the responsibility for that, he continued, “David is not alone to blame. For while many of us tried to re-shape his priorities, those pleadings were drowned out by the Board’s attention to ‘money’ issues.”

As to the need for a broadcaster to fill the leadership position at NAB, O’Shaughnessy called it understandable. “But how many statesmen are there abroad in the land these days? Where might we find the Ward Quaal of this generation as our problems multiply from within and from without?”