National Association of Broadcasters president Eddie Fritts has formally announced his intention to retire.
After more than 20 years of leading broadcasters’ primary trade group, Fritts notified board members today that he wants a search for a successor to begin. B&C first reported Fritts’ plans to exit Jan. 31.
The former radio-station owner has a contract that runs until April 2006, but a provision also calls for him to leave his post this September if a replacement is found.
Beltway gossip places CBS Executive Vice President Martin Franks as the leading candidate to replace Fritts.
But Franks, a former Democratic campaign organizer, might not be the first choice among the Republican majority on Capitol Hill.
Co-chairing the search committee to pick Fritts' successor are NAB Joint Board Chairman Philip Lombardo, CEO of Citadel Communications; and Immediate Past Joint Board Chair David Kennedy, president and CEO of Susquehanna Media.
Media Access Project President Andrew Schwartzman, frequently on opposite sides of Fritts on broadcast issues, said of the news: "While we disagreed with the NAB many more times than we agreed with them, I value Eddie Fritts' constant commitment to civility and willingness to try to settle our differences."
Among the successes NAB cites under Fritts are passage of the 1992 Cable Act and the 1996 Telecommunications Act; passage of legislation that rolled back an FCC low-power FM initiative; elimination of the fairness doctrine, and passage of legislation allowing satellite companies to deliver local TV stations.
Schwartzman took issue with the "success" label on rolling back LPFM. Calling it an example of what is wrong with NAB, he said "This service should be embraced as a farm team for the next generation of broadcasting, and not fought off as an infidel."
Broadcasters have had to do some fighting of their own, lately, taking some hits including the indecency crackdown at the FCC and the recent defeat of DTV multicasting must-carry at the FCC.