WASHINGTON — The CBS/Viacom merger shook up the board of the powerful National Assn. of Broadcasters on Monday when longtime Eye rep Martin Franks gave up his seat to Viacom’s top D.C. lobbyist Carol Melton.
Franks, executive vice president of CBS Television and senior vice president of Viacom, will continue in his role as a corporate strategist reporting to Mel Karmazin.
During the 12 years that Franks served on the board, he played a leading role in several pivotal industry battles, including the broadcast industry’s successful effort to knock down the financial-interest syndication rules. The so-called fin-syn rules allowed the studios to dominate the lucrative syndication business for more than a decade while the webs were barred from owing a stake in any off-net programming.
In addition, Franks was a key player during the debate over the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the battle over TV content ratings.
Most recently he spearheaded the creation of a broadcast industry-supported venture-capital fund, which would help minorities and women get a toehold in the industry. The fund won kudos from FCC chairman Bill Kennard, who has voiced concern about the lack of minorities among the stakeholders in broadcasting.
But Viacom’s Melton, senior vice president of government affairs, is no stranger to the broadcasting business. For the past three years she has headed Viacom’s office in Washington, where she had guided policy concerning the company’s 19 stations. In addition, her office includes former NAB staffer DeDe Ferrell and FCC veteran Ann Lucey.
“Carol is a pro,” Franks said. “She is going to bring a fresh perspective and will work out extremely well.”