If Wednesday night's Washington reception for former Federal Communications Commission chairman and now National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Michael Powell was any indication, he will have a respectful and attentive commission audience for his advocacy for the cable industry.
From the hugs from FCC chief of staff Eddie Lazarus and commissioner Mignon Clyburn to the shout-outs from old friend and current FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, Powell was clearly among well-wishers at the Women in Cable Telecommunications reception at the Mandarin Oriental hotel adjacent to the FCC's headquarters in Washington.
"For those of you who are our members, I promise to do my best," Powell told the crowd, "for those at the FCC I promise to offer the most, compelling, rational and reasonable argument for why you should do what we want," he said, to applause and cheers.
In her introduction, WICT president Maria Brennan (aka 'Diversity Diva') gave Powell a shout-out for his commitment to diversity, which had included naming Brennan to the FCC's diversity committee back when he was chairman. Powell returned the compliment. He said WICT's commitment to the important objective of training and developing the generation of women to take leadership posts in this industry and beyond is God's work." He added that he would be their "unwavering partner."
Powell seemed genuinely touched by the reception and the FCC and other star power in attendance -- and said so. "I think it is a remarkable show of affection that my successor, chairman Julius Genachowski would be here, along with my dear friend commissioner [Mignon] Clyburn]" and other top staffers.
Powell gave a shout out to his predecessor Kyle McSlarrow, now Comcast/NBCU Washington president, who was also in attendance. He called them "big shoes to fill" as the "premiere thought leader in this space."
But Powell was raring to fill them, saying he saw it as "a return to the arena." He said he had missed dealing with the most intellectually fascinating issues in America. He said he also missed it because it was a space "filled with people who are really trying to find solutions in a meaningful and pragmatic way to allow us to be proud of our country as the leading empire of the information age."
He said being chairman of the FCC and head of NCTA share some things in common, most importantly that, both are "guided by a North Star of the public good."
He said that doing his due diligence on NCTA before deciding to take the job, he was struck by "the extraordinary commitment these companies have to try to advance social welfare, to increase diversity, to educate our children, and to make the world a better place. And they are unsung about it. I don't think we get enough credit, frankly, for what goes on in this space."
Genachowski, who has been a friend of his for some 20 years, spoke briefly, calling Powell the best choice NCTA could have made, and someone whose counsel he sought when he got the job. He called that advice thoughtful, constructive and nonpartisan and said it had informed his decision-making.
As a result, he said, Powell should get credit for what has gone right in the last year and a half, but must also take some responsibility for what has not, he joked.
Among others on hand to salute Powell's arrival were Comcast executive vice president David Cohen, FCC general counsel Austin Schlick, CTAM president Char Beales and B&C/Multichannel News vice president and group publisher Louis Hillelson.