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NAB Poised To Tap Rehr

Commerce Committee Chairman Senator Ted Stevens pushed hard for Disney/ABC lobbyist Mitch Rose, his candidate to replace Eddie Fritts as President of the National Association of Broadcasters, but the NAB search committee is said to have settled on K Steet-connected prominent Republican David Rehr, president of the National Beer Wholesalers Association.

Rose, VP, government relations, for Disney, is Stevens' former chief of staff, a fellow Alaskan, and member of his "kitchen cabinet." "We completely trust Mitch and his judgment," says Lisa Sutherland, majority staff director for the committee. "The relationship between Ted Stevens and Mitch Rose is one of family. Deep and abiding."

The NAB could certainly use some deep and abiding help from Stevens. Broadcasters are in a pitched battle with cable over the issue of mandatory carriage of a broadcaster's DTV multicast channels, not to mention the emergency communications issue and possible payola inquiries stemming from BMG's admission it paid for radio play.

With Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton opposed to multicast carriage, Stevens' version of the bill is broadcasters' best hope. Some prominent Democrats, including John Dingell and Ed Markey, are said to have issues with the selection process as well.

Rehr has been the leading candidate with head hunters and NAB Chairman Joint Board Chairman Phil Lombardo. But a source close to the Senator strongly suggested Rose's familiarity with DTV and multicasting issues would make him a better advocate with Stevens for NAB's position. Rose is already the Senator's go-to guy on broadcasting issues.

It hasn't helped Rose that he works for a network. NAB had a very public split with the nets over the issue of station ownership caps. ABC returned very publicly last month, but the rest are still out, some pending the pick of a new NAB president--and the division between nets and affiliates runs deep. CBS Martin Franks, the other network candidate,  was dropped from consideration in June.

Fritts replacement is expected to be picked by the end of October, and could even be announced as soon as next week's radio show in Philadelphia.
Fritts'contract runs until 2006, but said last March he thought he would be running the association for another six months. Oct. 19 is the deadline for Stevens' committee to produce a DTV bill.
Dennis Wharton, spokesman for NAB, said that until the selection is made, the association would have no comment.