Policy

D.C. Reacts to Prospect of Wheeler Atop FCC

Some Groups Point to Lobbying Background, But Reserve Judgment 4/30/2013 2:23 PM Eastern

 

Reports on Tuesday that the White House was preparing to nominate Tom Wheeler to head the FCC drew reaction in Washington.

The co-founders of the Women's Media Center (WMC), which has been pushing the White House to name a woman to the post, said they were disappointed that did not appear to be the case.

"The federal agency has never had a female in the top spot in its 79-year-history," said Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan and Gloria Steinem in a statement.

"We regret that President Obama did not recognize the need for a woman leader in this important FCC chair slot, though there were a number of highly qualified women under consideration," said Fonda, according to WMC.

They did note in a release expressing that sentiment that the White House is likely to name a woman, commissioner Mignon Clyburn, as interim chair, which would make her the first woman to head the agency. She could be in the post for several months.

The Parents Television Council was taking a wait-and-see attitude to the pick.

"As a former top lobbyist for the cable and wireless industries, it's hard to know whether Mr. Wheeler will be truly focused on serving the interests of the American people, or whether he'd prefer serving corporate interests," said PTC president Tim Winter. "We remind him that the legislation that created the FCC references the term 'public interest' no less than 112 times. We call on Mr. Wheeler to commit the FCC under his leadership to serving the public interest, including the clear, consistent and vigorous enforcement of federal broadcast decency law, for the sake of America's children and families.

Winter said PTC would oppose the nomination absent that commitment.

The New America Foundation was also reserving final judgment, but its initial one was skepticism given that Wheeler is the former head of two telecom lobbies, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and CTIA, as well as being a bundler for Obama campaign contributions from the communications sector.

"The Obama Administration has done far too little over the past four years to address these challenges," said Sascha Meinrath, New America Foundation VP. "Due to this stagnation, the next FCC Chairman will need to make substantial and meaningful reforms to promote universal access to affordable broadband, restore robust competition, and encourage the implementation of world class broadband networks. I am skeptical that the former chief lobbyist of the wireless and cable industries will be capable of holding his former clients accountable for their ongoing shortcomings."

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