Will It Be ‘Acting Chairwoman’ Dinner, Or Will Wheeler Be on Board in Time?

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The Federal Communications Bar Association’s 27th annual Chairman’s Dinner is definitely on for Dec. 5. But just who is fated to be feted remains an open question.

The dinner has historically been an opportunity for a gentle, and sometimes not quite so gentle, roast of the chairman by those who get to run up billable hours running up to the eighth floor at the Federal Communications Commission — where the commissioners reside — to make their cases.

The chairman generally returns fire at both attorneys and his own staff — often with a humorous visual aid, a video or PowerPoint slides — before ending with a heartfelt shout out to aides and others.

It takes some planning. But it might have to be last-minute planning this time around, as it is unclear at this juncture who is going to be in the chair.

On its website, the FCBA says the dinner at the Washington Hilton will feature remarks “by the FCC chairwoman/chairman.” No, that is not a Victor Victoria thing going on. It is looking like incoming chair and former National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Tom Wheeler could be installed before then.

If Mignon Clyburn is still acting chairwoman on Dec. 5, though, she’ll be the one getting feted. Talk around FCBA circles is that Wheeler could be in by the end of October. But anything is now possible in this crazy, mixed-up, at-press-times-till- shut-down town, given that a vote on Republican nominee Michael O’Rielly has been delayed by the government furloughs, and Wheeler’s nomination isn’t moving to a full Senate vote without him.

Then there is the veiled “hold” threat against Wheeler’s appointment by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who wasn’t happy with one of Wheeler’s answers at his confirmation hearing. And we have lately seen the power of Cruz’s unhappiness.

But if Wheeler is confirmed and sworn in by Dec. 5, it will be him, not Clyburn, who gets the dinner, confirms FCBA executive director Stanley Zenor. Clyburn has been in the big chair since May.

Anti-Koch Group Appeals to WGBH ‘Bud’ of Trustees

Global-warming interest group Forecast the Facts said it obtained 119,000 signatures on a petition asking noncommercial TV station WGBH Boston to remove billionaire industrialist David Koch from its board.

The group led a protest by climate activists, who argue Koch funds climate- change denial and say he should not be associated with shows like Nova, the iconic science program produced out of WGBH.

That protest coincided with a WGBH board of trustees meeting last Wednesday (Oct. 9), which brings us to The Wire connection.

The chairman of that board is a familiar name: Amos “Bud” Hostetter, former Continental Cablevision chairman and now chairman of Pilot House Associates. Also among the board members is Robert Sachs, Hostetter’s former No. 2 at Continental and former president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, now principal of the Continental Consulting Group.

Brad Johnson, campaign manager for the group, which had announced its intention to present the petitions to Hostetter, said the chairman and the board were “gracious,” and allowed the group to say its piece at the beginning of the meeting, then accepted its boxful of petitions. Koch was not in attendance.

A spokesperson for WGBH said its board members do not oversee or influence programming, a point Hostetter also made to the petitioners, Johnson said.

“Over more than a decade, in a dozen documentaries and investigative reports, WGBH has presented the science and facts about climate change in our award-winning documentary series Nova and Frontline, and we will continue to cover the full dimensions of this topic,” WGBH director of media relations and marketing Michael Raia told The Wire. “Just as our viewers and listeners reflect a full spectrum of political and cultural views, so do our board members.”

— John Eggerton

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