It looks like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is in for a major overhaul. Following the news this week that Republican commissioner Robert McDowell had decided to call it quits “in a few weeks,” word comes that the commission’s chairman, Julius Genachowski, would announced his resignation (on Friday, March 23) as well. Tom Wheeler, a former president of the CTIA-The Wireless Association, is considered a possible candidate to succeed him, suggesting a desire by the government to ensure a smooth and successful wireless spectrum auctions (planned for next year).
While Genachowski has not yet confirmed his departure publicly, it leaves the FCC in a state of upheaval at a time when important issues like the broadcast spectrum auction, media ownership rules and TV carriage agreements are yet to be fully established.
And although his leaving the top FCC post is surprising at this moment, it was widely assumed that Genachowski, a Democrat, would leave during President Obama’s second term. Even without resigning, his term was set to officially end June 30.
He was appointed chairman of the FCC in June 2009 by President Obama and for the past five years and, unlike his predecessor, has led with a strong hand and was often at odds with broadcasters when it came to broadcast indecency, the loosening of media-ownership rules, wireless spectrum issues and supporting the President’s National Broadband Plan. Reports from Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal and Reuters have all confirmed that he will leave in the next few weeks.
"NAB salutes Chairman Genachowski for his years of service at the FCC," said Gordon Smith, President and CEO of NAB, in a statement. "The FCC chair is arguably one of the most difficult jobs in Washington, and yet [Genachowski] consistently performed with dedication and focus. We may have disagreed on occasion, but America's broadcasters wish him well in his journeys ahead."
Obama will now have to appoint someone to both positions, and the U.S. Senate must approve those candidates before cull confirmation. It is expected that another Republican commissioner and Democrat chairman would be installed to balance out the commission’s political leanings. Obama could also promote one of the remaining three members to replace Genachowski as chairman.
Genachowski is a close personal friend of Obama's. They went to school together, and he often played basketball with the president.
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