Washington— The Senate on Nov. 20 confirmed Jonathan Adelstein for a five-year term on the Federal Communications Commission, where the South Dakota native is expected to advocate rural interests in upcoming policy debates and perhaps cast the deciding vote on a key DTV issue.
The 42-year-old Adelstein was viewed by many as on his way out, but bipartisan support in the Senate revived his nomination in the waning moments of this Congress. Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) backed Adelstein, as did Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.). Senate Democrats on the committee also supported him.
Adelstein appeared before Commerce last Thursday and the panel voted to recommend his reappointment the next day.
An Adelstein aide and a Senate Periodical Press Gallery aide last Monday said that Adelstein gained Senate confirmation on Saturday, along with dozens of other White House nominees. Because Adelstein’s term expired in mid-2003, he was required to leave the agency when Congress adjourned this year.
Adelstein’s chances of remaining were further discounted when Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) — for whom Adelstein worked from 1995 to 2001 — lost his re-election bid to Republican John Thune on Nov. 2.
Adelstein’s reappointment does not change control at the five-member agency, where Republicans hold a 3-2 edge.
Born in Rapid City, S.D., Adelstein graduated in 1985 from Stanford University, where he also received a graduate degree in history in 1986. He attended Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government from 1986 to 1987. He is married with two children and lives in Arlington, Va. He is a Comcast Corp. cable subscriber.
In the months ahead, the FCC is going to debate funding the universal-service program, which keeps phone rates affordable in rural areas, and the extent to which voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) telephone providers need to contribute to the program.
MULTICAST ON TAP
Adelstein could end up casting the decisive vote on whether cable companies will be required to carry every free DTV service provided by local broadcasters. The current rule, supported by cable operators and programmers, requires carriage of a single service.
Adelstein and his staff have said that before he considers supporting a multicast carriage mandate, he wants to understand the programming that broadcasters intend to air on the new channels.
On Nov. 8, the American Corn Growers Association met with Adelstein to endorse a multicasting carriage mandate, saying it would help the rollout of NBC Universal’s Weather Plus network, a service designed to provide farmers and ranchers with access to vital information.
The ACG said a multicasting carriage requirement was necessary because NBC affiliates “owned by smaller groups or licensed to smaller markets” did not have to clout to negotiate access with cable operators.