Obama Nominates Genachowski as FCC Chair


President Obama last week nominated Julius Genachowski to be chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

The administration signaled the pick several weeks ago (“What Would Julius Do,” Jan. 19, 2009, page 3).

“I can think of no one better than Julius Genachowski to serve as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission,” said Obama. “He will bring to the job diverse and unparalleled experience in communications and technology, with two decades of accomplishment in the private sector and public service.”

Genachowski, a former Harvard Law School classmate of the president’s, helped draft the Obama campaign’s tech-policy plan, which some at the time boiled down to “open government, open networks, and open markets.”

Only days after the election, he was tapped along with another lieutenant to former FCC chairman Reed Hundt, Blair Levin, to draft tech policy for the new administration.

Genachowski has a range of experience in the law, business, politics, communications, and new media to draw on.

He is co-founder of venture capital firm Rock Creek Ventures and was a senior executive at Barry Diller’s Internet company, IAC/InterActiveCorp. He is also former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice David Souter and retired Justice William Brennan. His congressional experience includes serving on the staff of the Joint Select Committee on Iran-Contra and in the office of then-Rep. Charles Schumer of New York.

Genachowski must still be approved by Congress, with a confirmation in the relevant Senate committee — in this case the Senate Commerce Committee Chairman, headed by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) — and then a floor vote. The average elapsed time between nomination and approval is a couple of months, said one veteran nomination-watcher, depending on the committee’s schedule. Republicans are also said to be lining up their recommendation for a Republican nominee — for the vacant chair of Deborah Taylor Tate — that could be paired with Genachowsi.

“We congratulate Julius Genachowski on his nomination as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission,” said National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Kyle McSlarrow. “He is an excellent choice, and combines the policy savvy and real-world experience that will be necessary to confront both the challenges and opportunities presented at a time of incredible change sweeping the media, communications and technology marketplace.”

Added Media Access Project CEO Andrew Jay Schwartzman: “Julius Genachowski is one of the best-qualified appointees ever named to head the FCC. We look forward to having a more transparently-operating FCC, which will promote the free flow of information on all electronic media.”