Washington and Broadcasters Must Team Up

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According to former NAB Joint Board Chairman James Yager, now CEO of Barrington Broadcasting, broadcasters need to work on their relationship with Washington.

At a Maximum Service Television forum in Washington Tuesday, Yager said that "the greatest challenge facing broadcasters in the next couple years, is our relationship with both the Senate and the House."

"For some reason, we seem to have lost our magic with our own elected representatives," he said. "We have a challenge to rebuild that magic."

Yager pointed out that gauged by the number of political ads blanketing the country, "you will see that legislators haven't forgotten local television, but in some ways local television has kind of left them behind."

He said broadcasters have a lot of work to do, "particularly in the Senate."

Jay Ireland, President of the NBC Universal Station Group, seconded that concern, saying that through the DTV must-carry fight, he was struck by "the lack of knowledge of what the issues are among House and Senate members."

For example, he said there were some legislators who didn't understand that MSNBC was not an over-the-air channel.

"I think it's up to us through all of the groups we're part of, or in our case not part of NBC pulled out of the National Association of Broadcasters several years ago, to do a better job."

Ireland said legislators "see the value of our air" when they want airtime for debates. "We just have to make them understand that those are the kinds of things that we can do because we have the economic vitality to do that and the ability to broaden our reach through digital multi-cast services."

NAB President David Rehr, for one, has made improving communications between members and legislators a top priority. Last March, he began revamping the association's annual meet and greet with Congress into one based on a sales model focused on closing the deal in terms of making issues, and their relative priority, clear to Congress.

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