The Broadcasting Board of Governors, where Andrew Lack has worked just since January, has announced his departure. NBCUniversal yesterday was wrapping up talks to bring back Lack as news chief in hopes of restoring the division’s stature.
“The Broadcasting Board of Governors announced today that CEO and Director Andrew Lack will be departing the agency. The agency will now begin work to attract an equally talented executive to help continue to transform our agency. Andrew Lack was a strong choice to serve as the BBG’s first CEO and Director. He has a passion for our work, appreciation for our history and understanding of the importance of our mission…We will benefit from Andy’s observations and thoughts, based on his time with us, on how to move the agency forward as a world-class multimedia news organization.’ The federal agency oversees the five networks and broadcasting operations of U.S. international media, including Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio and TV Marti, Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks.
Lack is expected to replace NBCUniversal News Group Chair Pat Fili-Krushel, while she’s shifted to another post under NBCU CEO Steve Burke. Fili-Krushel hired NBC News president Deborah Turness, who is likely to hang on to her job, but report to Lack, insiders say. NBCU has not yet responded to contacts for comment about BBG’s announcement and Lack’s future at the news operation.
Sources say the move is being made to dig the news division out of from under a slew of problems — and impressive list that includes the suspension of its broadcast evening newscast anchor Brian Williams, a faltering MSNBC schedule, and struggling franchises that once owned their dayparts. Lack, who ran the news division from 1993 through 2001, is the guy who put NBC’s news operation on top in the ratings with evening news, Sunday Beltway show and morning infotainment program. When Comcast bought NBCU, NBC News still reigned supreme. These days Today and Meet the Press trail competition, and the race has gotten a lot hotter with evening news.
It’s unclear what the hire would mean for Williams, though, immediately, it means he will now have another pal in the place, as the company mulls whether his imaginative renderings of his role in events he covered for the division, including that helicopter attack in the early days of the Iraq war, and Hurricane Katrina, rise to the level of fireable offense. Williams goes way back with Lack, who began running NBC News in 1993 and stayed through 2001, during which time NBC’s Nightly News, morning infotainment program Today, and Sunday Beltway show Meet The Press all towered in their dayparts.
On the other hand, it’s Burke who’s going to make that call. Moreover, more than one person with whom we spoke noted that Lack is an old-school journalist, and not a sentimentalist.
Jeff Shell, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group at NBCU, also is chairman of the BBG, and was credited with bringing Lack in as BBG’s first-ever, if short-lived CEO. Lack’s exit was announced at a BBG meeting this morning, causing consternation, given that the org is under pressure to overhaul itself and the appointment of Lack, in January was considered a first big step, according to sources.
NBC News, meanwhile, is cleaning up a lot of messes these days. That includes Williams’ six-month suspension, and 10-week tenure of Jamie Horowitz as new head of Today, that show’s ratings loss to Good Morning America and its teary push-out-the-door of Ann Curry; and the kicking to the curb of Meet the Press host David Gregory, effective immediately, after weeks spent dismissing reports the move was imminent as “ludicrous” and “insulting.” Additionally, the press created a Special Class of “mess” for NBC News chief medical correspondent Nancy Snyderman, when she was caught double parked in her Mercedes, making a take-out food run. Problem is, she was supposed to be at home under the voluntary quarantine she’d announced, on-air, she would enter after being exposed to Ebola while reporting in Africa. An AP report went so far as to suggest she might be useless to NBC News going forward, at least on the Ebola story, owing not just to the quarantine violation, but her “arrogance” and “dismissiveness” when caught.