The former NAB president’s roster of clients includes CBS, News Corp., Ion and others, but not NAB. “It’s a nice start,” he says.
Since departing the National Association of Broadcasters last December, Eddie Fritts hasn’t had much time to look back and reflect on his 23 years as the association president.
He’s been too busy establishing The Fritts Group, his own top-drawer Washington lobbying firm. Fritts has already amassed an impressive list of clients, not only from the broadcasting business, but from the high-tech sector as well.
“We think it’s a nice start for a small boutique operation,ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Fritts says.
Signing on with Fritts are broadcasters CBS, Ion Media Networks (formerly Paxson Communications Corp.) and News Corp. (Fox Broadcasting’s parent company).
NAB’s former chief lobbyist is also representing internet service provider, EarthLink; Vonage, a leading internet phone provider and GoDaddy, a major Internet domain registrar.
Also relying on Fritts’s counsel and Hill experience is Cyren Call, which wants the FCC set aside over 30 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band for a privately managed nationwide communications network for public safety.
Just how fast The Fritts Group will grow is uncertain, but it should florish given Fritts’s strong ties to congressional leaders.
Fritts’s long-standing friendships with Senators Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), and Congressman John Dingell (D-Mich.), among others, are major assets.
“I don’t know that we have ambitions to be that large, but we do expect to add staff as we grow and have the opportunity to grow,ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â says Fritts.
His new venture already includes some seasoned NAB veterans: John Lively, former director of government relations; Kathy Ramsey, former executive vice president of public affairs, and Lisa Keller, who was Fritts’s executive assistant at the association.
The firm is already in the middle of many of major policy debates on the Hill and at the FCC. Vonage and EarthLink have a stake in the net neutrality debate, although they are not part of the official net neutrality coalition seeking stronger legislation barring telcos from discriminating in providing broadband services.
Gaining multicast must carry rights is the major priority for Ion Media. It could take some time, Fritts says. “We’ve always anticipated multicast must carry to be a two-year project.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
For CBS and Fox, preserving the the UHF discount in the FCC’s media ownership rules and broadcast flag language in the Senate telecom bill are key issues.
Yes, NAB is absent from Fritts’s client roster. His final year at the association was marked by contention with some of the leading TV members who sought his ouster. It was his allies in the radio business who kept him on board until his successor David Rehr took over in December.
Fritts’s contract with the association was officially up after the first quarter of this year.
“I loved what I was doing at NAB for 23 years,ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Fritts says. “It’s true that we had internal and external issues every day but we dealt with them and managed it pretty well. It was time for somebody else to take the ball and run with it.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
In addition, the former Mississippi radio broadcaster says he’s considering investing in radio and television stations. “We’re burning the candle at both ends.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
Fritts is more than welcome in the broadcast community. Both the New York and Pennsylvania state broadcasting associations recently showed their appreciation for his NAB work by bestowing their Broadcaster of the Year awards on him.
“I am just as happy as I can be,ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â he says. “I just love what I am doing now. I can be more entrepreneurial even in a small way. I can look at all the big firms in town and aspire to one day grow to be as large as they.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â