Groups Already Weighing In on Wheeler Chairmanship - Broadcasting & Cable

Groups Already Weighing In on Wheeler Chairmanship

Sources say White House nod could come as early as this week
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According to industry sources, the White House is expected
to nominate, or at least express its intention to nominate, Tom Wheeler to be
the next FCC chair as early as this week. As
B&C/Multichannel News has reported,
Wheeler was being vetted by the
White House for the post.

If the White House nominates him this week, it will be
because he has passed his FBI check, according to sources familiar with the
process. Otherwise, the president may simply indicate his intention to
nominate.

That doesn't mean Wheeler will be taking over immediately,
or even necessarily soon. The president must still come up with a Republican
nominee to pair with Wheeler, then the  Senate Commerce Committee will
have to hold a hearing on the nominations. The chairman of that committee, Sen.
Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), had come out in favor of his former aide, Jessica
Rosenworcel, for the chairmanship.

In the meantime, which could be from a couple months to a
half a year, the interim chair is expected to be commissioner Mignon Clyburn,
though that announcement might not come until the current chairman exits, which
is now expected to be by mid-May.

Cable operators will be getting a former advocate for their business atop the agency, as will wireless carriers.

Broadcasters likely won't be doing cartwheels over the choice suggested one veteran communications attorney, given that the new chairman will be a former wireless lobbyist who has taken them to task for their initial pushback on the spectrum auctions and for not having moved more swiftly on mobile DTV. But he has also indicated that it might be time to loosen media ownership rules.

As a communications policy advisor to President Obama, Wheeler was also instrumental in moving the DTV transition date from February 17, 2009, to June 15.

"NAB welcomes the nomination of Tom Wheeler as chairman of the FCC. He has the experience and temperament to serve the agency with distinction, and we look forward to working with him," said NAB President Gordon Smith.

Cable operators will be getting a former advocate for their business atop the agency, as will wireless carriers.

But Smith's welcome notwithstanding, broadcasters likely won't be doing cartwheels over the choice suggested one veteran communications attorney, given that the new chairman will be a former wireless lobbyist who has taken them to task for their initial pushback on the spectrum auctions and for not having moved more swiftly on mobile DTV. But he has also indicated that it might be time to loosen media ownership rules.

Public interest groups were already beginning to weigh in on
Wheeler.

"The Federal Communications Commission needs a strong
leader -- someone who will use this powerful position to stand up to industry
giants and protect the public interest," said Free Press president Craig
Aaron. "On paper, Tom Wheeler does not appear to be that person, having
headed not one but two major trade associations. But he now has the opportunity
to prove his critics wrong, clean up the mess left by his predecessor, and be
the public servant we so badly need at the FCC."

Wheeler ran both the National Cable and Telecommunications
Association and CTIA: The Wireless Association. He is currently a partner at
venture capital firm Core Capital Partners. He took a leave of absence from
that post back in 2008 to help get Barack Obama elected, then advised the
candidate and president on communications matters.

Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, said
she believes Wheeler will be "an independent, proactive chairman who will
not allow the FCC to become irrelevant as broadband becomes the dominant mode
of communications in this country."

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