According to the FCC's agenda for the July 13 Chicago forum on the Comcast/NBCU merger, Michael Copps is the only commissioner on the program for the event, which is not an official hearing.
The reasons vary, including that the Republican members were under the impression that it is a Media Bureau staff-level event, say their top aides.
Meanwhile, Free Press is trying to turn up the heat to boost attendance.
An aide to the FCC's senior Republican, commissioner Robert McDowell, said that she would be in Chicago as an observer. "We understand this is essentially a staff-level meeting," said Rosemary Harold, senior legal advisor for media issues, to B&C, "and I am going in his place to observe as his representative."
Brad Gillen, legal advisor for Republican commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker, said that they would be keeping tabs on the forum, but that it was the Media Bureau's show. "She won't be there because the hearing is being hosted and presented by the Media Bureau as part of the fact-finding of the merger and we will be monitoring the proceeding, but the commissioners were not expected to attend."
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski will send a video greeting, but not attend. Asked why, spokeswoman Jen Howard responded, "He will be opening up the workshop [with a taped greeting] and will be fully briefed on all of the substantive issues that are discussed." John Flynn, who the chairman brought in to manage the FCC's vetting of the Comcast/NBCU merger review, will be there.
A staffer for commissioner Mignon Clyburn had previously indicated to B&C that she wanted to attend. She has called on the FCC to hold field hearings on the deal, saying it would "force" the commission to "interact and see up-close how Americans feel about the merger." But acting chief of staff Angela Kronenberg said Friday that Clyburn has a scheduling conflict. The commissioner is currently traveling in Alaska at the invitation of Senator Mark Begich, who has invited commissioners to the state to check out its communications challenges for themselves. "She has been there since Tuesday and is touring rural telcos and healthcare facilities," said Kronenberg, among other venues.
FCC Dems are apparently making sure not to forget the non-contiguous states in their summer business travels. Genachowski was in Hawaii this week to talk broadband with Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and talk with broadcasters there, according to his office, with a brief stop-over at Sun Valley for the media big-wigs conference.
Kimberly Marcus, executive director of Rainbow/PUSH in Washington said it was "unfortunate" that more of the commissioners were not able to be in attendance. But Rainbow/PUSH understands scheduling conflicts.
Rainbow/PUSH founder Jesse Jackson was planning on attending the House Communications Subcommittee hearing (an official hearing in this case) on the deal July 8 in Chicago, but had a scheduling conflict and sent his son Jonathan to read his testimony for him. He also has conflicts--a speech to the NAACP, an international trip next week--that may keep him from the FCC hearing as well, said Marcus, who adds that Rainbow may send a representative to weigh in during the two-minutes-apiece public input portion of the FCC's seven-hour Chicago marathon.
Free Press, which opposes the deal without strong conditions, is not happy with the light commissioner turnout for the forum, particularly the chairman's absence. It is even encouraging Web surfers to post this "wanted poster" with Genachowski's picture on it "all over Chicago."
"Put it up in coffee shops, on school bulletin boards, on lamp posts, and anywhere else you see fit," says Free Press in an online call to arms. "Just get it out there. Share it on Facebook and Twitter. Ask your friends to do the same. Post it on the FCC's Facebook page along with a note saying something like this: "Chairman Genachowski: the public needs you. Please attend the FCC hearing on the Comcast-NBC merger in Chicago July 13."
Genachowski's office had not comment.