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Viewpoints: Meeting With US Rep. Reyes

I became a first-time lobbyist during a recent trip to our nation?s capital. I joined a group of ABC affiliate managers for a ?Call on Congress.?

It was quite a juggling act trying to make appointments to get in the door to see the likes of Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison and Representative Silvestre Reyes.

Two issues resonate with TV types these days. Broadcasters oppose cable and satellite company efforts to soften the rules on an industry term we call ?retransmission consent.? Currently, when a TV station?s contract ends with a cable or satellite company, TV stations have the leverage to keep popular programming off cable or satellite. We believe this encourages active free-market negotiation. Broadcasters also worry about the FCC initiative to take broadcaster?s spectrum to make room for greater wireless broadband access.

While they fight it out in Washington, let me tell you a little story.

I was honored to have a face-to-face formal meeting with our congressman. Upon entering Reyes? reception area, his chief of staff and press secretary warmly greeted me. They escorted me inside the office where I nervously waited. I knew I had to be quick and succinct. He?s a busy man. When Silvestre entered, he threw me an unexpected loop. The congressman wanted to talk TV, but not the TV talk I had prepared for.

Unbeknownst to me, my news department had just aired a report about Reyes? $1,600 SUV monthly vehicle lease. What are the odds? It was the first negative report we?ve done on our congressman in ages. Why did my guys have to do this to me on the eve of my visit with him? No one had thought to forewarn me. In their defense, they are busy producing local news rather than worrying about what the GM is up to.

I listened to the rather agitated congressman explain that he was paying a higher lease payment to secure a domestic vehicle rather than a foreign one. All the while, I wasn?t sure what he was talking about! After he finished, it came time for me to speak. I stayed on topic and he listened seriously to my broadcaster concerns. We concluded our meeting in agreement that Tim Floyd knows how to recruit.

I was off to see Senator Cornyn. I wasn?t so nervous any more. The worst was behind me.

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