MacBride to Head NAB's Legal Staff

The revolving door in Washington, D.C., got a little WD-40 Monday.

Marsha J. MacBride, former Walt Disney Co. lobbyist and Federal Communications Commission chief of staff under chairman Michael Powell, was named the new head of the legal department at the National Association of Broadcasters.

"In Marsha MacBride, we have found someone with vast knowledge of broadcast-related issues who is savvy in the ways of Washington and who will be sensitive in responding to membership needs," NAB president Edward Fritts said.

In her new role, MacBride will steer the NAB's lobbying efforts at the FCC, essentially seeking favorable regulatory rulings from old colleagues for thousands of radio and television stations across the country. She will also help to decide when the NAB should seek relief in court.

MacBride -- who starts Dec. 15 as executive vice president of legal and regulatory affairs -- joins the NAB at a time when the organization is waging an all-out campaign for FCC rules that would require cable carriage of multiple digital services provided by each TV station.

At the NAB convention in April 2002, MacBride told broadcasters that Powell did not think his January 2001vote helping to kill a multicast mandate was the correct policy decision. In that vote, the FCC said the legal requirement that cable systems carry a TV station's "primary video" referred to just one channel of programming and not to several channels.

"[Powell] was persuaded, I think at that time, that the definition of primary, as used in the statute, meant one," MacBride told the NAB audience. "I do want to clarify that he then quickly went to [Capitol] Hill and told them that he didn't think that was necessarily the right policy result, and he has been very vocal on that."

In a comment that she might have to live down as the NAB's new chief regulatory advocate, MacBride went on to say that the FCC faced a "high burden" if it intended to overturn the primary video decision.

MacBride, who has held several FCC staff positions, left Disney in January 2001 to run Powell's staff. She announced that she was leaving the FCC in August, two months after the agency liberalized broadcast-ownership rules, not all of them to the NAB's liking.

One day after she was named Powell's top aide, MacBride was cleared of wrongdoing by an FCC investigation into Disney's unauthorized disclosure of confidential information the commission obtained from America Online Inc. and Time Warner Inc. while considering their merger in 2000.

The NAB's top legal job opened up when Jeff Baumann announced his plan to retire in February after 20 years with the trade group.

MacBride is a 1985 graduate of the George Washington University Law School and a 1981 graduate of Douglass College at Rutgers University, the NAB said.