Just as the anti-deregulation forces are gaining strength (see story, page 1), the National Association of Broadcasters must find a replacement for long-time Executive VP and chief Capitol Hill lobbyist Jim May.
May last week was named president and chief executive of the Air Transport Association of America, the trade group for major U.S. airlines.
NAB has begun the search for a replacement. He or she likely won't be installed in time for May's Feb. 3 start date at ATA but likely will be by the annual convention in April.
Although NAB has a capable Capitol Hill staff, industry sources say the group, considered one of the most effective lobbies in Washington, will want to lure a well-connected Republican to replace May. May himself came to NAB from the outside in 1988, having been vice president of public affairs for the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of New York.
May's departure and the flagging fortunes of former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott force the NAB to rebuild ties to GOP leadership, particularly in the Senate. Lott, who attended the University of Mississippi with NAB President Eddie Fritts, had backed broadcasters on many key issues.
May, a Marine, was close to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain. Both were Vietnam combat veterans. In his new job, May can make good use of his ties to the Commerce Committee. As with broadcasting, Commerce is the primary Senate panel for transportation legislation.
Why the move? In addition to a likely big raise—the ATA post pays about $700,000; May's NAB salary is not public information—he will now get a chance to head his own organization. Industry sources said May has been seeking a top post for a few years and recently vied to fill lead jobs with News Corp.'s Washington office and the U.S. Telecom Association. Some industry players say May was sometimes rankled by the credit accorded Fritts for the NAB's Capitol Hill track record.
May is scheduled to replace retiring Carol Hallett Feb. 3. "I recognize the challenges that lie ahead," he said, "and look forward to meeting them head on."
NAB President Eddie Fritts congratulated May, though he said he was disappointed to see the key staffer depart. "Under Jim's leadership, NAB government relations became a catalyst for energizing our grassroots membership, and NAB is regarded as one of the most effective lobbying operations in Washington."