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Genachowski Confirmed to Head FCC

As widely expected, Julius Genachowski was approved by the full Senate on Thursday to lead the Obama-era FCC. The Senate also returned Republican Robert McDowell to a second term as commissioner.

In addition to the confirmations, President Obama announced yesterday that he plans to nominate Republican Meredith Attwell Baker as commissioner and also confirmed the nomination of Mignon Clyburn to replace Jonathan Adelstein. The 41-year-old Baker is the former head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and former point person on the government’s digital-TV-to-analog converter-box-coupon subsidy program.

If confirmed, Baker would be the last administration pick for the five-member FCC and take the Republican seat vacated by Deborah Taylor Tate. Baker had been with the NTIA since 2004, when she joined as a senior advisor. Before joining the NTIA, Baker was vice president of Williams Mullen Strategies and, before that, director of congressional affairs at the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association. Her resume also includes working in the legislative-affairs office at the State Department. She is the daughter-in-law of former Secretary of State James Baker.

Clyburn, a South Carolina public service commissioner is the daughter of one of the most powerful members of Congress, House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C. No nomination hearing has been set for Clyburn.

Genachowski, a former Harvard Law classmate and former FCC attorney, was also Obama’s classmate at Harvard Law. He reportedly raised more than $500,000 in political donations to the Obama campaign and has been widely praised for his business knowledge, technical vision and apparent commitment to network neutrality, media diversity and broadband buildout.

“I want to thank the members of the U.S. Senate for this enormous honor, first presented to me by President Obama to whom I am also deeply grateful,” Genachowski said. “The FCC has the inspiring mission of ensuring that our communications networks and technologies serve the nation's needs and improve the lives of all Americans.”

The new chairman is expected to focus heavily on broadband but he also expounded on several issues of importance to broadcasters in a hearing in front of the Senate Commerce Committee last week. He told the panel that he opposed reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine—which requires broadcasters to give equal time to opposing sides—because he believes it violates the free speech clause in the First Amendment. He also expressed his concerns over broadcast indecency, saying that “the FCC’s job in this area is to enforce the law. Congress has been clear on the indecency law.”

The approvals were followed by the ritual inside the beltway “we look forward to…” proclamations.

Acting FCC Chairman Michael—who will return to his post as Democratic commissioner and oversaw the conclusion of the DTV transition—praised what he expected would be the new chairman’s proactive approach.

“I believe Julius brings just the right blend of talent, experience and dedication to lead the FCC toward the more active role it must play if all our citizens are to enjoy the blessings and bounties of Twenty-first century communications,” Copps said. “I look forward to welcoming both Julius and his family into our FCC family. And I look forward to working with Julius and all my colleagues at the commission in tenacious pursuit of communications policy that truly puts the public interest first.”

NAB also congratulated the new chairman and nominees, as well as Larry Strickling, who won Senate approval to the head up the NTIA.

“NAB salutes the Senate for confirming Julius Genachowski as the new FCC chairman and for granting a second term to Commissioner McDowell,” the NAB said. “We are also pleased that Larry Strickling has been confirmed as head of the NTIA. President Obama could not have picked three more qualified candidates for these critically important public policy positions, and NAB looks forward to working with all of them on behalf of America’s free and local radio and television stations.”

NCTA President Kyle McSlarrow said, “we congratulate Meredith Atwell Baker on this well-deserved nomination and look forward to working with her and the entire Commission on the critical issues that will shape the future of telecommunications in the U.S.”

“We are pleased that the Senate has confirmed Julius Genachowski to be the new chairman of the FCC and Commissioner Robert McDowell to serve on the Commission for another term,” said Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge. “We look forward to working with both of them, as well as with nominee Meredith Atwell Baker when she is confirmed, as the Commission grapples with the pivotal issues needed to revitalize our economy and make certain all of our citizens have the advantages of advanced telecommunications networks.”