Disney/ABC Dumps NAB

Today ABC/Disney resigned its membership in the National Association of Broadcasters, who now represent none of the major television networks: Fox and NBC bailed out in 2000 and CBS followed a year later.
This particular marriage dissolved over the NAB’s resistance to increasing the television ownership caps. On June 2 the FCC raised the cap allowing TV broadcast companies to own enough stations to reach 45% of the viewing audience, up 10% from the previous limit. The networks wanted the caps raised so they could buy more stations and bring them under direct network control; the companies that own most affiliates didn’t want increased pressure from the networks. Since the vast majority of U.S. TV stations are NOT network-owned and operated, it was easy to see how the NAB would come down in this fight.
For its part the NAB says its clout in Washington won’t be diminished by Disney’s departure; after all, broadcast television networks represent a small portion of all of the big media interests which fall under the NAB’s purview as a trade association (nobody outside the TV network domain is rushing to jump ship).
Disney already glad-hands more on Capitol Hill than the NAB does, having spent some $1.2 million on political contributions during the 2002 federal election cycle, surpassing the NAB’s paltry $959,000 (Viacom topped all corporations with broadcast interests, investing a shade over $2 mil in the 108th Congress).
When push comes to shove on policy issues, as it will this Thursday in a closed-door Senate committee hearing that will discuss the idea of undoing some of the FCC’s recent deeds, it’s almost certain that ABC and the NAB will kiss and make up. It’s not like the NAB and the other three big networks were at fisticuffs over the media ownership issue as a whole – this recent spat is just part of the political show.