The president and chief executive of the National Association of Broadcasters has announced his resignation. David Rehr is leaving the organisation following the annual NAB convention but before the embarrassingly delayed deadline for the completion of the transition to digital television in the United States.
“I have enjoyed leading America’s broadcasters through this time of change and challenge,” he said. “Our efforts to educate America about the digital television transition have been enormously successful, and our effort to reinvigorate radio through the Radio Heard Here campaign is positioning radio broadcasters well for the future.”
The former president of the National Beer Wholesalers Association was appointed by the NAB in 2005 after “an exhaustive search”.
David Rehr will continue in his current role during a transition phase. Janet McGregor, the chief operating and financial officer of the NAB will assume day-to-day duties until a successor is named.
The National Association of Broadcasters backed a high-profile campaign to promote the digital television transition. Despite a reported 97% level of awareness, one in five homes reliant upon over the air broadcasts was still unprepared in January, with 2.5 million still waiting for converter box coupons and an estimated six million Americans facing the prospect of blank screens.
The incoming Obama administration backed a delay in the deadline, which was an embarrassing reflection on the state of preparation for analogue switch off. The NAB president simply welcomed the intervention as reaffirming “the importance of free and local broadcasting in the fabric of American life”.
The deadline for completion of the digital television transition was subsequently delayed from 17 February to 12 June 2009.
In his opening address to the annual NAB convention in April, David Rehr failed to mention the delay, while praising the “extremely successful” publicity campaign.
The NAB had also lobbied unsuccessfully against the merger of Sirius and XM satellite radio subscription services, but he instead emphasised the success of the Radio Heard Here promotion.
With a month to run before the final deadline for digital television transition, it seems that public preparation has improved but significant numbers are still not ready.
The most recent research from Nielsen suggests that now just over 3% of homes in the United States remain reliant on analogue broadcast television, which is still around 3.5 million homes. There is considerable variation between markets, with conversion complete in some areas, while in others nearly 9% of homes are not converted. African American, Hispanic and Asian homes are significantly less prepared than white households. Younger people are also appear less prepared than those in older households.
A telephone survey of a thousand homes commissioned by the NAB suggests that two million homes are still not ready. It found that 82% of over air households were prepared in April, compared to 51% in January.