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Group Means Business in D.C.

Mar 6, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The National Association of Broadcasters’ new leader is taking a hard-sell approach to lobbying.

David Rehr, NAB president and CEO since December, is out to re-engineer the association’s lobbying outreach to make it more efficient, turning visits with legislators into actual sales calls.

Last week, as part of the NAB’s annual campaign to sell federal lawmakers on pro-industry legislation, nearly 500 out-of-town broadcasters converged on Capitol Hill and were outfitted with sharp attach%E9; cases and plastic tote bags boldly emblazoned with NAB’s logo to transport the association’s latest lobbying weapon: reporting forms that will be used to identify industry friends and enemies.

Part of the broadcaster/lobbyists’ new task is to explicitly pitch their home-state lawmakers for support on a laundry list of industry issues, including legislation that would require cable TV operators to carry all of the signals multicast on digital channels.

“We’re going to be very nice people, but we’re going to ask,” Mr. Rehr told reporters.

Along with the satchels, Mr. Rehr asked that the out-of-town broadcasters/lobbyists wear a pair of stickers in neon colors during their Capitol Hill visits. A red sticker, referring to NAB’s claim that existing v-chip and other blocking technologies pre-empt the need for anti-indecency legislation, says: “Help empower parents-ask me how.” A yellow one says: “Radio & TV-wireless before it was cool.”

Mr. Rehr said the completed reporting forms would be entered into a database to track legislators, helping the association target NAB lobbying resources.

Eventually NAB’s new salesmanlike lobbying approach “will hum like a machine,” Mr. Rehr said.

The concept was not receiving universal raves, even throughout the industry.

One broadcast industry source, who asked not to be identified, said of Mr. Rehr’s approach: “We don’t need to be told to carry our bags with the NAB logo out. We don’t need to be told to lean forward when we close the deal. We’ve done this for years. [Lawmakers] are either for you or against you.”