Dennis Wharton, executive VP of communications for the National Association of Broadcasters, will retire July 1 after 24 years with the trade group.
Wharton has been the longest-serving spokesperson for the association in its history.
Wharton, who has been a fixture both on the scene as the association's chief spokesman and behind the scenes helping to orchestrate the annual NAB Show in Las Vegas, will remain a consultant to the association.
“Dennis is a fervent advocate for local broadcasting and his dedication to NAB and the broadcast industry cannot be overstated,” said NAB president Gordon Smith. “Journalists, broadcasters and colleagues alike value his extensive insight on industry-related issues and appreciate the enthusiasm and good humor he brings to his work. We wish Dennis all the best and are fortunate to have him stay on as an adviser to NAB.”
Wharton signaled to NAB last year that he would be leaving on or about his 24th anniversary.
In a letter to the NAB board, he called the decision to leave "bittersweet."
Wharton joined NAB in June 1996 as VP, media relations, following more than a dozen years as a reporter and bureau chief for Variety in Washington. He is a graduate of The Ohio State University.
NAB also said Tuesday (May 5) that it is merging its communications and marketing departments into a new public affairs Department, led by NAB’s Michelle Lehman.
Marie Cumming, senior VP of Communications, will be the primary spokesperson for NAB, assisted by Zamir Ahmen, VP of media relations. Jen Jose will be senior VP of public affairs, overseeing messaging, and digital and public service, with an assist from NAB VP of digital, Gagan Nirula.
Shermaze Ingram, senior VP of marketing and creative services, will continue to head up association marketing, event campaigns, and creative services.
A veteran broadcast policy exec weighed in on Wharton's impact on the industry.
"During his 24-year stint, NAB has been led by three CEOs -- Edward O. Fritts, David K. Rehr, and Senator Gordon H. Smith, seven heads of government relations and five heads of legal and regulatory affairs. All the while, the industry has been served by one chief spokesman – Dennis. As Edward Bennett Williams once said, “The only realistic aspiration in Washington is survival.” Dennis has surpassed that by every measure.
"Following the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction, Dennis worked alongside legendary MPAA chief Jack Valenti on the roll-out of an Ad Council campaign to promote the use of the V-Chip and the TV ratings system. “Be the Boss” encouraged parents to utilize technology to control the content on their TV and became a multi-million dollar ad campaign supported by every major broadcast network and TV station in America.
"Dennis commonly refers to himself as a reporter-turned-PR guy. Despite the fact that the bulk of his career ended up on the “dark side,” he always viewed journalism as his true calling and defended the work of reporters inside the board meetings of NAB, no matter how challenging a particular article may have been."
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