There is finally white smoke at NAB, or at least there would be if the association were in the business of telegraphing its decisions.
No word from NAB, but B&C has learned from a member that the search committee decision is now unanimous on a successor to NAB President Eddie Fritts.
An announcement could come in advance of next week's board meeting, said the source, though another school of thinking is not to drop Fritts' replacement into the middle of the DTV must-carry fight.
Unless something has radically changed, that successor is David Rehr, top lobbyist for the National Beer Wholesalers' Association. Rehr and NAB Joint Board Chairman Phil Lombardo were both in meetings and had not returned calls at press time, but no official comment was expected until the press release had been issued.
Rehr is the kind of Republican, K-Street connected lobbyist that GOP leadership had been pushing to fill association vacancies, suggesting that the party's influence in the town was not reflected in the leadership of the lobbies that needed to work with them.
He is also described as energetic and a good fundraiser.
Rehr has been with the beer association since 2000, and in the mid-1990s he was named one of the town's top lobbyists. He will be trying to fill the shoes of another top lobbyist. Fritts helped take the group from one that a legislator famously referred to as unable to "lobby its way out of a paper bag" to one of the most effective in town.
The NAB faces one of its biggest fights as it tries to secure mandatory cable carriage of its multicast digital signals. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) supports giving broadcasters that carriage, while House Commerce Chairman Joe Barton (R-Tex.) does not.
Although Disney lobbyist Mitch Rose was also a top candidate for Fritts' job, with fans among Democrats and Republicans, including Stevens, his former boss, NAB leadership was set on locking up Rehr, particularly since his name had also been mentioned to top the National Federation of Independent Business, where he was director of House governmental relations before joining joining NBWA.
It may have also worked against Rose that he worked for a network. NAB and the networks had a falling out over ownership rules that is only now being mended. ABC in August returned to the association, and one or more of the other nets could follow suit.