Networks to Form New NAB?

Posted June 24, 2003 at 4:13pm

The nation’s television networks have held initial talks about forming their own trade association to rival the National Association of Broadcasters.

The group would represent local television stations controlled by the networks, such as Washington, D.C.’s WRC Channel 4, which is owned and operated by NBC. [IMGCAP(1)]

The NAB represents local television stations that are not owned by the networks, such as the CBS affiliate in D.C., Gannett-owned WUSA Channel 9. The NAB also represents radio broadcasters.

News of the discussions was made public by Preston Padden, a top lobbyist for Walt Disney, which owns ABC.

Last week, Padden announced that ABC was pulling out of the NAB, becoming the last of the four major networks to leave the association.

“We have had one preliminary conversation with the other networks about forming an independent group to represent the local stations owned by the networks,” said Padden, promising to call

the association America’s Greatest Local Broadcasters.

ABC left the NAB after accusing the trade group of favoring local affiliates over network-owned local stations.

The existing tension bubbled over when the NAB recently took the lead in opposing the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to relax media ownership rules. ABC and other networks supported the FCC decision.

In a letter to the head of the NAB, Padden said it was “hypocritical” for the association to advocate “continued regulation of the national station cap” when not all NAB members agreed with the stance.

NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said the association is not worried about another group in town representing television stations.

“They can form their trade association, but I am not sure how much clout they will have,” Wharton said.

“Most people believe that our effectiveness is tied to the fact that there are local radio and television broadcasters in every city, every town and every Congressional district in the country,” he added.

Prescription for Top Lobbying. With medical reform legislation at the top of the Congressional agenda, the health care industry spent more money lobbying Washington than any other sector in the last six months of 2002, according to new data released by PoliticalMoneyLine.com.

According to information culled from lobbying reports, the health care industry retained the top spot on the lobby list by spending more than $135 million — a $6 million jump from the first half of 2002.

In the sector, the top spender was the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America ($8 million), followed by Merck ($4.7 million), Eli Lily & Co. ($3.8 million), GlaxoSmithKline ($2.5 million) and Bristol-Meyers ($2.4 million).

Overall, federal lobbying topped $925 million in all sectors, a 7.7 percent increase from the first six months of 2002.

Divided per month, that’s a whopping $154 million per month for the latter half of last year.

After health care, the communications and technology sector spent the most dollars on lobbying, with $113.3 million.

Finance and insurance interests placed a close third with $112.2 million.

Business and retail services came in fourth place ($82.2 million), with energy and natural resource interests rounding out the top five ($79 million).

The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, an arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was the top individual spender, It committed more than $17 million to push its interests during the latter half of last year, according to the findings.

The Chamber itself spent $11.3 million, followed by 60 Plus ($10.6 million), the Business Roundtable ($8.4 million), Pharma ($8 million), the American Medical Association ($7.2 million), General Electric ($7 million), Altria ($6.8 million), the Seniors Coalition ($6.3 million), the American Hospital Association ($6 million), the Edison Electric Institute ($6 million) and Freddie Mac ($5.6 million).

Lobbying disclosure reports covering activity in the first half of 2003 are not due until August.

The Big Easy’s Big Man in D.C. The city of New Orleans is looking to one of the Bayou State’s biggest names to help it steer federal dollars for municipal projects and programs.

Former Rep. Bob Livingston (R) and his lobbying shop, the Livingston Group, has added the state’s largest city to his roster of Louisiana-related interests.

Livingston already represents the city of Baton Rouge, the port of New Orleans, the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Tulane University and Jefferson Parish, among others.

BRT Clout on the Rise? The Business Roundtable elected Boeing Co. CEO Phil Condit as its new chairman last week in a move designed to further boost the trade association’s Washington profile.

The selection of Condit is the latest move in a two-year campaign by the Business Roundtable to become more of a player in town after years in which it played a low-key role in policy debates.

The effort was started by outgoing chairman John Dillon of International Paper in 2001, when he hired John Castellani as president of the trade group of leading corporate CEOs.

“We were very good at being of technical assistance. We probably didn’t focus as much on the political,” Castellani said in a recent interview.

Under Dillon, Castellani took a different approach. The Business Roundtable regularly brought its CEOs to meet with administration officials, actively lobbied Members of Congress and got more involved in the 2002 Congressional elections.

“We’ve come to a better understanding of the political dynamic,” Castellani said.

The work seems to be paying dividends. After all, it was the Business Roundtable that first proposed the idea of slashing the tax rate on corporate dividends late last year — an idea that became the centerpiece of President Bush’s most recent tax plan.

Now the Business Roundtable plans to ramp its political efforts further, especially in the runup to the 2004 election.

“In order to be more relevant, our employees need to be more active” at the polls, Castellani said.

E&Y Retains Former Tauzin Aide. Ernst & Young has retained the services of Public Strategies and one of its top lobbyists, Wallace Henderson, to monitor all matters related to accounting that come before the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Financial Services Committee.

Henderson is a close friend of Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.).

Goldwyn Signs Two Energy Giants. ConocoPhillips and BP have retained the services of international energy expert David Goldwyn and his firm, Goldwyn International Strategies.

The energy giants are interested in a Senate bill that would amend the tax code to provide energy tax incentives, as related to Alaskan energy production.

Goldwyn, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, was an assistant secretary of Energy during the Clinton administration.

Freddie Mac Brings on New Advisers. Freddie Mac, the embattled home loan giant, has brought on new lobbyists to help it on a variety of issues, lobbying disclosure forms show. Jeffrey Walter of the Walter Group and David DiStefano are listed as monitoring issues related to banking and financial services and government-sponsored enterprise.