Washington -- Deborah A. Lathen, a California-based
consumer affairs executive with Nissan Motor Corp. USA, has been tapped to be the new
chief of the Cable Service Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission.
Lathen, a Harvard-trained lawyer who has worked for TRW and
The Quaker Oats Co., has an extensive background in corporate management but apparently
has had little involvement with the cable industry.
"She's very bright. She has good corporate
experience and good management experience. I think she is a quick study," said Debra
Lee, president and COO of BET Holdings Inc.
Lee said she knew Lathen at Harvard Law School in the late
1970s but they have not kept in close contact over the years.
Lee said she was not responsible for bringing Lathen's
name to the attention of FCC chairman William Kennard.
"I think Bill has known her for years," Lee said.
"Bill's sister went to Harvard. She was up at Harvard at the same time as
FCC sources said Lathen's unfamiliarity with cable
issues could slow the pace of the bureau's work while she gets up to speed. The
bureau is currently preparing an order mandating the commercial sale of set-top boxes.
"She has to go through an education campaign if she is
not familiar with the bureau or cable. That's to be anticipated," an FCC source
Some at the agency said Lathen's hiring meant that
Kennard has no immediate plans of closing the cable bureau or merging it with the Mass
In a statement announcing Lathen's selection, the FCC
did not indicate when she start work. The bureau has been under the direction of acting
chief John Logan since March 20 when former chief Meredith Jones left after four years.
"Deborah is an excellent lawyer and a skilled manager.
The wealth of experience she has garnered in the private sector and her business,
transactional and consumer affairs background will serve her well as Cable Services Bureau
Chief," Kennard said in statement.
Lee said Lathen's newness to cable issues would not be
"If you remember, [former FCC chairman] Reed Hundt
came from the anti-trust side of the law and didn't have much cable experience and
Meredith Jones came from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration," Lee
said. "I think she'll get up to speed pretty quickly."