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D.C. Salutes Gordon Smith, NAB’s Honest Broker

Gordon Smith at NAB Show
NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith speaks at the last in-person NAB Show in 2019. Smith will step down from that role at the end of the year. (Image credit: JohnStaleyPhoto.com)

Gordon Smith will step away from his day-to-day duties as president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters at year-end. 

Smith took over in November 2009, following the long and storied tenure of Eddie Fritts atop the association, a hard act to follow as demonstrated by the short and rather rocky tenure of ex-beer association executive David Rehr that preceded Smith’s arrival. Back in April 2021, NAB said the departing Smith would be succeeded in January by Curtis LeGeyt, currently the association’s chief operating officer. Smith will transition to an advisory and advocacy role through Dec. 31, 2024. 

Also Read: NAB Show Canceled Amid Concerns About Coronavirus

A former U.S. Senator from Oregon, Smith has guided his members through a number of  sea changes on the way to its interactive, next-gen future, always with his eye on the North Star of the industry’s public-interest calling.

We reached out to some major Washington players for their thoughts on his tenure and what emerged was a strikingly consistent portrait of a fundamentally good man and an executive who has exhibited grace under pressure and commanded respect, while garnering affection from allies and the loyal opposition alike.

Jessica Rosenworcel, Acting FCC Chairwoman

Acting FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel

Rosenworcel (Image credit: FCC)

Senator Smith took the reins at NAB right after broadcast television stations transitioned to digital service. After ushering these stations into a new age, he faced another big challenge as the same stations were given the option to participate in the first ever broadcast incentive auction. That’s a lot of change to manage!  

He did it all gracefully and along the way he was also a zealous advocate for radio and a consistently smart and respectful presence in every policy discussion about the power and potential of broadcasting. I wish him the best in retirement. 

Gary Shapiro, President and CEO, Consumer Electronics Association

Gary Shapiro of CTA

Shapiro (Image credit: Consumer Technology Association)

Senator Smith is a strong and steady leader, who has ensured broadcasters made their voices heard on major policy issues. On a personal level, I have enormous respect and appreciation for Senator Smith. He is trustworthy, intelligent and has a dignity that sets him apart as a stellar individual. 

Preston Padden, Former top News Corp. and Disney Executive, Currently an Independent Consultant

Preston Padden

Padden

Gordon Smith may be the nicest person in Washington, D.C. Coupled with a keen grasp of the issues, that niceness has reaped huge rewards for broadcasters

Chip Pickering, CEO, INCOMPAS and Former Mississippi Congressman

Chip Pickering of INCOMPAS

Pickering (Image credit: INCOMPAS)

An industry of communicators has been blessed to have Gordon Smith serve as their voice for the past decade. He is a tremendous leader, whose wisdom and decency has helped unite many of us around common goals for the greater good.

It was a true honor to serve with Gordon in Congress, and then to be at the table with him as our industry continues to evolve toward a brighter, better future. Family is and always will be Gordon’s true north, and I am excited for them as a new journey begins.

Richard Wiley, Chairman Emeritus, Wiley Rein LLP, and Former FCC Chair

Richard Wiley

Wiley (Image credit: Wiley Rein)

Gordon Smith has been a forceful, determined and effective advocate for the broadcast industry. But, at the same time, he is a thoroughly considerate individual admired by allies and opponents alike. And, yes, I would buy frozen foods and maybe even a used car from him. [Smith Frozen Foods is the family business].

Matthew M. Polka, President and CEO, ACA Connects

Matt Polka

Polka (Image credit: ACA Connects)

NAB president Gordon Smith has served with distinction in public service and government relations since 1992. Whether in the Oregon State Senate, the U.S. Senate or in his post leading the NAB, Senator Smith navigated the tricky waters of politics with character, dignity and an always-friendly demeanor. In his work at NAB, he led networks, television groups and radio stations — not always the most sanguine of groups — with skill and savvy during dramatic change in the market, especially in the competitive tussle for advertising support. 

Everyone I know who dealt with Senator Smith knew him to be not only a worthy adversary, but also a leader who always made a sincere attempt to appreciate the other side’s point of view. The Washington, D.C., public policy scene will miss Senator Smith and his uncommon approach to advocacy in action. I wish Senator Smith the very best, with God’s many blessings.

Robert McDowell, Co-Chair, Global Communications Practice, Cooley LLP, and Former FCC Commissioner

Robert McDowell

McDowell (Image credit: Cooley LLP)

Gordon has led NAB with grace, wit, determination and resilience. His steady hand on the association’s tiller has navigated it through the treacherous waters of increasing and intense competition from powerful tech companies for eyeballs, ears and ad dollars; increasing and asymmetric regulation of broadcasters when compared to other media, especially during the Obama years; and enduring a pandemic that dealt a blow to NAB’s revenue, among many other challenges. 

Throughout it all, Gordon was a calm and courageous voice of reason who was a delight to work with while I was a commissioner. His legacy will cast a long shadow for years to come.

Steven K. Berry, President and CEO, Competitive Carriers Association

Stephen K. Berry

Berry (Image credit: CCA)

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with Gordon Smith for many years, and I consider him a friend. Gordon has been a highly effective advocate for NAB, bringing stability and a healthy understanding and knowledge of Congress to the organization. 

He is a respected industry leader, an honest broker of solutions, and on a personal level, someone I’d be glad to meet out on the golf course any day of the week. Congratulations Gordon on your accomplishments; I wish you well in your future endeavors!

Michael Powell, President and CEO, NCTA–The Internet & Television Association, and Former FCC Chair

Michael Powell

Powell (Image credit: NCTA)

I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with Gordon Smith for years, both while he was a U.S. senator and then as he led the National Association of Broadcasters for more than a decade. 

Gordon is a truly honorable public servant and friend whose calm demeanor and thoughtful leadership helped steer NAB during a period of significant change and upheaval in the traditional media marketplace. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors and his well-deserved retirement.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chair, Senate Commerce Committee

Sen. Maria Cantwell

Cantwell

I have had the pleasure of working with Senator Gordon Smith for decades, first as a colleague in the Senate and then in his role as the head of the National Association of Broadcasters.

He has always been a tireless advocate for those he represents, from the people of Oregon to radio and television broadcasters throughout the country. The country will be better for the work Gordon has done to secure a bright future for local broadcasting even as consumer video habits have changed. 

And Gordon knew better than most how important it is for broadcasters to remain committed to the cities and towns where they are located while serving the larger national interest. I wish Gordon all the best in his retirement.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.