New FCC Commissioners Soon, or Wishful Thinking?

Any deregulatory initiative at the FCC is effectively blocked up right now because the Republicans do not enjoy their typical majority under a Republican executive because a new commissioner has not yet been appointed to replace former chair Michael Powell. A new commissioner also needs to replace Kathleen Abernathy, whose term has expired but may stay on until the end of the year.

There were rumbings that Bush might announce his nominees last week, but they didn’t materialize. Certainly, the telcomm and broadcast industries wish they would, so that the media ownership rules revisions, for instance, could move on without those pesky public interest Democrats being able to push their agenda for having maximal public input.

The National Journal’s Telecom Update reports that the buzz points to White House adviser Richard Russell and Deborah Tate, who serves on the Tennessee Regulatory Authority and is apparently close to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

The article gives some more background on the two potential nominees, and they both basically sound like career Republican technocrats, with nothing mentioned that points clearly to their leanings on regulatory issues. More research is needed.

It’s not unreasonable to predict that the Bushies will not be apppointing any outspoken media reformers, and probably not anyone particularly outspoken about anything, trying to avoid Powell’s bull-in-the-chinashop approach to issues like media ownership. I think loyalty to Chairman Kevin Martin’s agenda will be the most important aspect for the Bushies — in essence a couple of commissioners in Abernathy’s milquetoast mold, albeit with just a little more complementary expertise.

It’s expected Bush will renominate Democrat Michael Copps to his seat on the Commission, in exchange for getting his new nominees through the Senate with few hurdles. But, of course, appointing new FCC commissioners still lags behind judges and a justice in the overall Bush agenda.

I think it’s healthy for our telcomm and media industries to learn a little patience, anyway.