Lombardo May Lead NAB

Sep 15, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Phil Lombardo, CEO of Citadel Communications, emerged last week as the leading candidate to become joint board chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters.
But NAB board sources warned that a formal decision could be delayed while association officials wrestle with how to formalize the selection of a new chairman under the association’s by-laws.
Assuming Mr. Lombardo gets the nod, he will succeed Jim Yager, CEO of Barrington Broadcasting, who resigned earlier this month citing personal reasons.
Mr. Lombardo would fill a critical leadership vacuum for the association, inheriting the slot at a time when NAB is fighting one of the more complicated and internally divisive legislative battles of its political life. The organization is trying to roll back the cap on national TV ownership but wants to preserve aspects of deregulation that are supported by many of its members.
One of Mr. Lombardo’s most daunting challenges as chairman would be to reunite an industry that has been splintered in recent years by the competing interests of its members, particularly those dividing the networks and their affiliates.
Under the association’s usual line of succession, the joint board chairmanship would have gone to Michael Fiorele, NAB’s TV board chairman and president and CEO of Dispatch Broadcast Group.
But sources said both Mr. Fiorele and Andrew Fisher-NAB TV board vice chairman and president of Cox Television-had made clear they weren’t seeking the promotion.
Sources also said a promotion for Mr. Fisher would have been particularly controversial because he has been identified as a leading proponent of the Network Affiliated Stations Alliance’s campaign to force NAB to lobby against raising the cap on national TV ownership. The Big 4 TV networks have supported the deregulation, and differences over the issue prompted all of the networks to drop out of NAB during the past several years.
Cox is also a major multiple cable system operator, and that’s an affiliation that sources said would cause some broadcasters concern about a promotion for Mr. Fisher.
Sources said Mr. Lombardo, like the majority of his colleagues on the NAB TV board, is a strong proponent of affiliate issues, including the NASA campaign to roll back the national TV cap to 35 percent of TV homes.
But at the same time, sources said, Mr. Lombardo has made clear that he believes the association should reach out to the networks to try to persuade them to come back into the fold.
“As an industry, we should be unified in approaching the FCC and the Hill,” Mr. Lombardo has been quoted as saying.
Also cited in favor of Mr. Lombardo’s candidacy is that he is a TV station owner, not just an employee of a broadcast company, as are many of his colleagues on the association board.
`A Good Guy’
“Phil is a really good guy,” said Dean Goodman, a member of NAB’s executive committee and president and chief operating officer of Paxson Communications Corp.
The gist of the controversy over the NAB’s bylaws, sources said, is whether the new chairman must be approved by the full board or may be more informally named by the executive committee.