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NAB’s prexy plans ’06 exit

Fritts plans to ankle next year

Eddie Fritts, the U.S. broadcast television and radio industry’s top lobbyist, said Wednesday that he will step down when his contract ends in April 2006.

Fritts, 63, who has been president of the National Assn. of Broadcasters since 1982, departs from one of the most influential and powerful lobbying groups in Washington.

Under Fritts’ tenure, the NAB successfully oversaw passage of the 1992 Cable Act, which gave broadcasters must-carry/retransmission consent rights. In the 1996 Telecommunications Act, broadcasters received additional broadcast spectrum to facilitate the transition to digital. They also won extension of license terms from three years to eight.

In addition, the org beat back a governmental attempt to require broadcasters to give equal time to political candidates.

But there were failures, too. Most recently, the NAB failed in its attempt to compel the Federal Communications Commission to force cablers to carry all the digital channels a broadcaster could transmit. Despite NAB objections, the FCC also stepped up enforcement activity on broadcast indecency. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is trying to roll license terms back to three years.

Fritts, who will continue as a consultant to the org, is part of a search committee tasked with finding his successor.

“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,” said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, head of watchdog org Media Access Project.

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