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Fox and CBS rejoin TV industry's DC lobbying group

May 10, 2010 |  3:40 pm

News Corp.'s Fox and CBS have rejoined the National Association of Broadcasters, the television industry's key Washington lobbying organization.

This will be a big shot in the arm to the bottom line of the NAB. Fox and CBS rejoining will mean more than $1 million in membership fees.

It is also a boost to morale. All four networks -- CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox -- had left the NAB years ago but now all have returned. Of course, with NBC in the process of being acquired by cable giant Comcast Corp., it might not be too long before they leave again.

The decision of Fox and CBS to return is also a feather in the cap of Gordon Smith, the trade association's new president. Smith, who joined NAB a year ago, was had served in the Senate as a Republican from Oregon.

One of the reasons that the big networks left NAB in the past was concern that its interests were clashing with the interests of other local TV stations that the association represented. For example, the big networks have pushed for further relaxation rules limiting the number of TV stations a company can own while many smaller broadcasters have wanted to keep the status quo. 

However there are several big issues facing the industry and the networks are betting that it makes more sense to present a unified front in Washington. Broadcasters are currently gearing up for a battle with the Federal Communications Commission over the spectrum they have been allocated for digital TV. The FCC is asking the broadcasters to return some spectrum for new services but the industry is reluctant. The FCC is also deciding whether to revisit rules that allow broadcasters to charge cable operators to carry their signals.

-- Joe Flint