Caught in the crossfire between the broadcast networks and their affiliates, the NAB is planing an extraordinary board meeting within the next few weeks to reassess its fundamental mission and decide whether the networks should be excluded as members.
On the table, says NAB President Eddie Fritts, are the big questions: Who we are; where we have been; and where we are going. The crisis over the NAB mission and membership dominated hallway discussions at the NAB Future Summit in Monterey, Calif., over the past three days. That crisis was precipitated March 8, when a coalition of affiliates asked the FCC to crack down on what they see as networks' abuses of their power over their affiliates.
Many of those affiliates now want the NAB to suport the anti-network campaign. But such a move would clearly antogonize the remaining networks in NAB, CBS and ABC. NBC and Fox exited the association after NAB decided to oppose network efforts to relax station ownership caps.
Fritts would not predict the outcome of the special session, but acknowledges that the loss of the networks would be a hit financially (ABC and CBS pay a combined 1.6 million in annual dues), and poitically. "We are stronger with a united front than with a divided house, Fritts said.
- Harry Jessell