The FCC under the Obama Administration

The short list for Federal Communication Commission Chairmanship

Current Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin spoke at UT last week. He was the 2008-09 recipient of the William Randolph Hearst Fellow Award, given by the College of Communication to “individuals whose distinguished careers in communication make them outstanding role models for students.”

While the good PR folks at the College of Communication tried to wrangle an interview for me, when it was all said and done, I was given the big blow off by Martin’s people. After dutifully submitting my proposed questions — many of which had to do with the future of grassroots media, and relating that to the upcoming Texas Cable Association Lawsuit hearing (Texas Cable Association Hearing set for Nov. 14 post) — and after a flurry of e-mails, the response was pristine silence. Not a peep, not so much as a, “thanks, but no thanks.”

It was just as well. I thought I was coming down with the flu, and it set me on edge seeing “Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau” in the media contact’s signature. Another reminder of the salvos the Bush Administration threw at privacy and communication rights in the name of security. But the Bush Administration is on its way out, right?

According to a Nov. 10 posting in TVWeek.com, Martin says he’d like to stick around at least through the DTV transition that occurs Feb. 2009, maybe longer. As a Republican, it’s likely he’ll be relieved of his duties soon after the Obama administration takes over, but Martin apparently has no immediate plans to move on. Perhaps he should take a look at BusinessWeek.com. There, in a posting that arrived seconds after the TVWeek posting, was an article discussing how Obama’s transition team was mulling over who should take the reins as the new FCC Chairperson.

Among the candidates are two African American women including Julia Johnson, a Florida consultant who “chairs Video and Access Alliance, an advocacy and advisory group for independent, emerging, and minority networks and Internet content providers,” according to the posting by Olga Kharif. The other possibility is Mignon Clyburn, daughter of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (SC). She has been on the Public Service Commission of South Carolina since 1998. The PSC has broad jurisdiction over utility companies in South Carolina, including telecommunications.

Other candidates include:
Blair Levin. He oversaw the historic 1996 Telecommunications Reform Act.

Scott Blake Harris. The FCC’s first International Bureau Chief in 1994.

Don Gips. Former chief domestic policy advisor to Al Gore and current vice president of fiber-optic network provider, Level 3.

Larry Strickling. Works for the Aspen Institute, a policy think tank. As an Obama advisor, he helped design the campaign’s Innovation and Technology plan. According to the BusinessWeek piece, Strickling is also in the running for the chief technology officer position, a role described as running parallel to the FCC chair.

Julius Genachowski. A close Obama advisor and former executive at IAC/InterActive.

While current Democratic FCC commissioners could be tapped as the next FCC Chair, “Washington insiders” claim that’s "unlikely."

“Whoever is selected to head the FCC,” BusinessWeek reports, “could shift the balance of power in the ongoing battle between telcos, cable companies, and Internet companies like Google, which have clashed in recent years….”

In other words, the stronghold the telecom providers have had under the Bush Administration is likely to end with the Obama administration, according to experts.

Click here to see the entire BusinessWeek.com.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

FCC, Kevin Martin, Obama

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