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A Welcome ‘Thumbs Up’ for Smith

After two and a half years, NAB's leaders decide Gordon Smith should be here for the long haul

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.