The FCC Commissioner became Acting Chair — and the first women to run the regulatory agency — on Saturday taking the job just vacated by Julius Genachowski until the Senate (presumably) confirms President Obama’s choice to replace him, Tom Wheeler. “I see myself as a member of a relay team, running one of the middle legs,” Clyburn told FCC staffers today. “My job is to build on forward momentum, give the next teammate a running start, an improved position, and no matter what, my goal is not to drop the baton.” It could take months before she can pass that baton to Wheeler. The Senate likely will confirm him in tandem with a Republican to replace former Commissioner Robert McDowell who left the FCC on Friday. Presidents typically appoint someone recommended by the opposition leadership when there’s an FCC opening for the out party. But the Senate GOP has yet to make its pick. Leaders are seriously considering Duke University’s Michelle Connolly — a former FCC chief economist — Politico reports. Others being looked at include former Scripps Networks Chief Legal Officer A.B. Cruz, and Hill staff veterans Ray Baum and Neil Fried. Last week the U.S. Office of Government ethics disclosed that Wheeler — a former lobbyist who’s now an investor with Core Capital partners — said that if confirmed he would divest holdings in 78 companies including AMC Networks, Apple, Cablevision, CBS, Comcast, DirecTV, Dish Network, Gannett, Google, Liberty Media, News Corp, Scripps Networks, Time Warner, Time Warner Cable, and Disney.
Listen to (and share) Episode 33 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media, as Deadline’s Executive Editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom look at earnings-season results for most of the Big Media companies; a worrisome prediction for summer box office bombs just as the summer movie season kicks off; the FCC’s new chairman; and DreamWorks Animation’s new tech acquisition.
There was laughter at the White House moments ago when the President, who was also smiling, said he anticipates “a speedy confirmation process.” That may be too much to expect following his nomination of Core Capital Partners’ Tom Wheeler, 67, to be the nation’s chief communications regulator. But the FCC won’t be leaderless once Chairman Julius Genachowski steps down: President Obama designated Commissioner Mignon Clyburn to be Acting Chairwoman until Wheeler’s aboard. Wheeler’s mandate is to make sure that the U.S. is “at the cutting edge” of technological change, promoting “American ingenuity and American innovation,” the President said. Genachowski says that he can “attest to Tom’s commitment to harness the power of communications technology to improve people’s lives, to drive our global competitiveness, and to advance the public interest.”
Listen to (and share) episode 28 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman as our Executive Editor and host David Bloom look at changes at the top of the Federal Communications Commission and what it means for the business of cable TV, broadband and wireless; a new No. 2 in the global film business and how that may change the film business; whether Hollywood is making enough family-friendly fare for the exhibition business; and if Angry Birds can disrupt with media business with an online cartoon.
Julius Genachowski just officially confirmed reports that he will leave “in the coming weeks.” That has those who follow FCC matters wondering who President Obama will name as a successor — and whether that person will share Genachowski’s belief that the Internet should be cultivated as the nation’s chief communications medium. The smart money is betting on Tom Wheeler, who’s Managing Director of Core Capital Partners and is close to the president. Four years ago he ran Obama’s transition effort for science, technology, space and arts agencies. Wheeler lobbied for the cable industry from 1979 to 1984 when he was president of the National Cable Television Association, and then represented wireless phone companies as CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA). Close behind in the speculation is Larry Strickling, who’s Administrator of the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and helped to manage the Recovery Act’s broadband grants. Another possibility: Karen Kornbluh, who’s Ambassador to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Robert McDowell announced yesterday that he would be leaving the five-member commission and now it appears the other shoe is about to drop. Republican McDowell’s announcement was widely believed to be a precursor to an announcement that …
A coalition of broadcasters, wireless providers, and chip makers Thursday urged the FCC to adopt guidelines to minimize potential conflict between broadcasters and wireless companies as the agency strives to cope with rising stress on bandwidth. Because of ever-increasing …
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said that he’ll raise at the commission next month a proposal to “free up a substantial amount of spectrum for wifi to relieve wifi congestion and (increase) speeds.” He made the announcement at a friendly venue: the International CES confab in Las Vegas, where tech manufacturers are hungry for additional wireless spectrum for smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. “This is an exciting new initiative….This is really important,” Genachowski says. Although most details will be released later, the wireless bandwidth will come from unlicensed spectrum in the 5 Ghz band held by the Defense Department and other government agencies. “As in other areas, we’re convinced the spectrum can be shared,” he says. The wifi spectrum in that band will increase by 35%, he added. It’s the largest block of unlicensed spectrum opened for wifi since 2003.
The curious thing about Julius Genachowski‘s tenure as FCC chairman is that he’s been a virtuoso in dealing with broadband issues but tone deaf when it comes to traditional media. Case in point: Look at all the people he has infuriated with his attempt to make it easier for a company to own a TV station and major newspaper in the same city. (A proposal Genachowski circulated would put the burden on the FCC to show why it should block a cross-ownership arrangement in the 20 largest markets.) The effort is tailor-made for Rupert Murdoch. He’s kicking the tires at The Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune — two cities where Fox also owns TV stations. That has foes of media consolidation seeing red. “We cannot live in a vibrant democracy unless people get divergent sources of information,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) said yesterday. “I intend to do everything I can to prevent this proposal from going forward.” That effort has momentum. This week Genachowski — under pressure from Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a potential swing vote on the five-member commission – said he’d accept more public comment on media ownership rules, pushing any decision into January at the earliest. Some of Genachowski’s most vigorous supporters tell me that they believe he blew it: If opponents effectively use the time to rally others to speak out against the plan, it’s probably toast.