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Republican commissioner McDowell to leave FCC

FCC commissioner Robert McDowell — currently the longest serving member on the FCC — said that he will leave his job as at the commission in “a few weeks” before his second term (in June) expires.

McDowell made the announcement last Wednesday at an FCC public meeting.

The Republican joined the commission in 2006 to fill the unexpired term of then chairman Michael Powell. After his initial term ended on June 1, 2009, President Obama nominated McDowell for a second five-year term.

McDowell, who might have become FCC chairman if Mitt Romney had been elected President, said he has no plans for a new job after leaving the commission.

“I will be talking to the FCC’s chief ethics officer to make sure that my departure will be in full compliance with not only the letter but the spirit of all of our ethics rules,” he said. “Beyond that, I have absolutely no plans other than to take my family on a much-needed vacation.”

McDowell’s chief of staff, Angela Giancarlo, announced last month that she was leaving the FCC.

If FCC chairman Julius Genachowski also leaves the commission, as expected in the near future, the vacancies would leave one for each political party. The president makes FCC appointments, but it is traditional that the minority party’s leaders pick the nominee from their party.

As a Republican on the FCC, McDowell has been a strong advocate for free market decisions and deregulating broadcasting. The White House, in deciding to re-appoint him, was pleased with his support of broadband expansion and the advancement of unlicensed wireless devices in the TV spectrum.

On McDowell’s departure announcement, Genachowski said, “Rob McDowell has been an extraordinary colleague — deeply knowledgeable about the vital and growing communications and tech sector, creative, wise and a great partner on the Commission.”

NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith said McDowell “has been a remarkably gifted public servant during his seven-year tenure at the FCC. His good humor and grace have been matched only by his ardent support for fair media ownership rules and full-throated support for a vibrant First Amendment. Commissioner McDowell will succeed in whatever path he chooses, and NAB wishes him well.”