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NAB Sets Sale for Capitol Hill

New NAB President David Rehr has begun instituting a strategy to turn the annual State Leadership Conference in Washington into a group "issues" sales call on legislators by an army of well-schooled broadcasters.

Rehr is hoping to turn the annual "grip and grin" into a "grip and close the deal" when it comes to key legislative issues like indecency and multicasting. His goal, he says, is a "finely tuned machine." NAB already had boxes full of the bags--organized by state--lined up outside a meeting room at the Mandarin Hotel, which is hosting the conference.

Each of the 500 or so station and group executives--NAB's estimate--attending the conference this week got the equivalent of a morning sales meeting, then each were to get a sample case (OK, an NAB-branded bag) containing the following: color-coded issue (and corresponding talking-point) cheat sheets; a slick year-of-public-interest-in-review brochure; a list of the House members who supported a bill requiring satellite radio to be a national-only service; a study refuting a cable study on retransmission consent; lapel stickers on indecency--"Help Empower Parents: Ask Me How"--and general branding--"Radio & TV: Wireless Before It Was Cool."

The list of bill supporters is part of Rehr's strategy to let legislators know that broadcasters are keeping close tabs on who is voting for what, as well as to show those who haven't signed on how many of their colleagues have.
The broadcasters--who will be meeting individually with their Congressfolk on Wednesday--also got what is in effect an issue order form so that they can record their lobbying progress on key issues, with places to check off the legislator's response: "Supports Our Position," "Opposes Our Position," "Has No Position," "Not Discussed." There will even be an incentive bonus for broadcasters who return the forms: Two names will be drawn at random from those and each will get $100.

The seven "color-coded" issues for which Rehr and NAB are looking to get a legislative check-off: 1) Supports broadcasters on down conversion, multicasting, and treating stations the same regarding cable carriage; 2) "Will co-sponsor H.R. 998 (the satellite radio bill); 3) Will give media campaign time to develop before legislating indecency; 4) Will allow industry time to work on audio broadcast flag solution; 5) Will protect digital television content with a broadcast flag; 6) Will oppose a performance right tax on local broadcasters; 7) Understands local broadcasters’ community service."

Eventually all that information will be collected in books by state, then put into a database.

Rehr says the response to the approach so far has been positive and points out that many of the broadcasters combine the annual Washington event with sales calls on clients--many broadcast executives have risen through the sales ranks and are familiar with making the call and closing the sale.