John Orlando has grabbed the top lobbying position at the National Association of Broadcasters, taking over at a time when the trade group is urging Congress to overturn broadcast deregulation favorable to the Big Four networks.
Orlando, a Democrat who was named acting head of NAB's government relations after the departure of James May in February, last Monday was officially named executive vice president of the department by NAB president Edward Fritts.
Trade groups in recent years have come under pressure from Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), the House majority leader, about hiring Democrats for top lobbying positions instead of Republicans, when the House, Senate and White House are all under GOP control.
In a statement released by the NAB, two House Republicans — Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and Rep. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) — endorsed Orlando's selection, perhaps signaling that DeLay would not retaliate against NAB.
Tauzin's support for Orlando is significant because he and the NAB are now on opposite sides regarding legislation that would retain old limits on how big the Big Four may grow in terms of signal coverage.
Orlando has been a Washington insider for more than a decade. From 1989 to 1993, he was chief of staff for the House Energy and Commerce Committee under chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.). He oversaw the committee's effort to write substantial portions of the 1992 Cable Act, a reregulatory law that contained considerable favors for TV stations, including mandatory carriage and retransmission consent.
Orlando joined the NAB in January 2001, coming from CBS's Washington office, where he ran day-to-day operations. Prior to joining CBS, he was a vice president and principal at Timmons & Co., a top Washington lobbying firm.
Unlike the NAB, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association is still searching to fill its top government relations position. Pam Turner left the NCTA in March to become assistant secretary for legislative affairs in the newly created Department of Homeland Security.
"The search process is continuing," said NCTA spokesman Brian Dietz.
NCTA president Robert Sachs has been running Turner's former department.