Anticipating a Post-Election FCC

In Washington, D.C., the real fun begins after the election, when various and sundry government officials leave or get booted from their nine-to-fives. One odds-on favorite for departure is FCC Chairman Michael Powell. Bush Administration or no Bush Administration, Powell is expected to boogie after the first of the y
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In Washington, D.C., the real fun begins after the election, when various and sundry government officials leave or get booted from their nine-to-fives. One odds-on favorite for departure is FCC Chairman Michael Powell.

Bush Administration or no Bush Administration, Powell is expected to boogie after the first of the year. Among Powell's grand accomplishments include allowing people to switch cell phone service without changing numbers, and implementing a "Do-Not-Call" list to rein in rampant dinnertime phone solicitors, who retaliated by inventing spyware.

Like his fellow William and Mary alumnus, Jon Stewart, Powell has had a lot to say about broadcasters during his tenure, most of which included the phrase, "reclaim beachfront spectrum."

His intention to complete a DTV transition bill before the end of the year (complete with digital must-carry and analog deadlines) seems to support the speculation that he's packing up the pictures of himself. Powell also wants to be known as the chairman who cut loose Broadband-over-Power-Lines and unlicensed devises in taboo TV channels, so the November and December FCC meetings could be whoppers with everything.

Should the union survive the election and the Bush Administration continue to serve, FCC Commissioner and Chairman-in-Waiting Kevin Martin considered a favorite for ascending the throne. Martin's competition may include a woman who appeared in her Air Force jumpsuit on the cover of "Hispanic" magazine in 1991, for an article about why she left her job at the Bush 41 White House and volunteered for Desert Storm--as a reservist. When Rebecca Klein returned from the Persian Gulf, she worked for then Gov. George Bush and then became chairman of the Texas Public Utilities Commission.

Klein is running for Congress in Texas District No. 25, which extends in a narrow band from Austin to Mexico, and is heavily Democratic. Consequently, her chances for running the FCC are considered better than for representing District No. 25.

Joining Powell in the exodus will be Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy, whose term expired last June. Names on the Republican short-list for her seat include National Telecommunications and Information Administration Director Michael Gallagher; William Bailey, chief telecom advisor to Sen. John McCain, (R-Ariz.); and FCC Chief of Staff Bryan Tramont.

Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, whose term expired in June, 2003, is also expected to vacate the Portals, unless his old mentor, Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) comes to his rescue. Daschle is currently occupied in the campaign battle of his life.

Those considered in line for Adelstein's chair, if Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) wins the White House, include Greg Rothschild, senior minority counsel on the House Energy & Commerce Committee, an aide to Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and a former Kerry staffer. Rothschild would join the ever-steadfast Democrat, Michael Copps, who just could get tapped for the top spot under Kerry, sources on Capitol Hill said. Copps has been a vociferous critic of the Republican-controlled FCC, particularly over loosened media ownership regulations and what he feels are ill-defined public-interest obligations and lax indecency standards for broadcasters.

There's no guarantee that anyone on either short list will make the final cut, as one observer noted. In past years, complete unknowns have garnered FCC appointments. One thing is certain, however--if Copps does take charge of the FCC, television will have to watch its language.