White House Vetting Wheeler

Former cable and telecom exec posed to succeed FCC chairman Genachowski upon his exit

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has yet to
announce his exit date, but the consensus of FCC
watchers from both parties is that former cable
and telecom exec Tom Wheeler is poised to be
nominated to succeed him as chair of the FCC.

Communications attorneys, lobbyists and
others last week said they expected an announcement
soon, and that it would probably be
accompanied by commissioner Mignon Clyburn
being named interim chairman.

It could take from several weeks to several
months to vet and vote on Wheeler, along with
a Republican to replace exiting commissioner
Robert McDowell. The name of Michael O’Rielly,
a staffer with Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas),
continues to surface for the McDowell seat.

Clyburn is the senior Democrat on the FCC after
Genachowski, and would be the first African-
American woman to chair the commission.

President Obama has been under pressure
to name a woman to succeed Genachowski,
and qualified candidates include Clyburn, FCC
commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and longtime
Obama adviser Karen Kornbluh.

But naming Clyburn interim chair would at
least break the female drought in the top seat,
and if her tenure stretched to months, she could
make an imprint on the commission, as interim
chair Michael Copps did in overseeing the digital
transition after Kevin Martin’s exit and before
Genachowski came on board. Last week, 50
groups called for a chair who would make boosting
minority media ownership a top priority.