The Five Spot: Adonis Hoffman, Founder, Business in the Public Interest/CEO, The Advisory Counsel

Adonis Hoffman on CNBC
Adonis Hoffman gives his take on the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint on CNBC. (Image credit: CNBC)

Armed with a degree from Princeton and a JD from Georgetown, Adonis Hoffman has seen Washington communications policymaking from myriad angles — as a lawyer, lobbyist, Hill staffer, top Federal Communications Comission official (including chief of staff and senior legal adviser to commissioner Mignon Clyburn), professor and consultant on corporate responsibility. 

Hoffman taps that experience to counsel CEOs, business leaders and trade associations. He weighs in on racism in America, his most rewarding work and more. He spoke with Multichannel News senior content producer, Washington John Eggerton. 

Adonis Hoffman

Adonis Hoffman (Image credit: Business in the Public Interest)

You have done a lot of things in this town. Which job has been most rewarding and why? My early career in Washington was centered on foreign policy and international trade. I had the good fortune to work in Congress for Rep. Merv Dymally (D-Calif.), who brought me to Washington and changed my life. He was an internationalist and a leading member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the 1980s and ’90s. As staff director and counsel to that committee, I traveled to 45 countries and met with political leaders around the globe. 

When I left the Hill in the mid-1990s, I landed a job at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where I directed the program on Africa and International Law. At a time of sweeping democratic reform in Africa and the developing world, I worked on constitutional and election monitoring. My articles and books on U.S. policy were widely published and I felt as if I was contributing to an important dialogue that was taking place within our government. 

Everything else has been fine, but just not as heady.

What is The Advisory Counsel LLC? The Advisory Counsel is a firm that provides sage advice to today's leaders. We help big companies with big issues and challenges, usually resulting from mergers, class-action litigation or regulatory developments. Most of our work is with C-suite executives, general counsel and boards that need a strategic, multi-dimensional solution to a big problem: sometimes media, sometimes legislative, sometimes legal, sometimes relationship-building, but always discreet and high-level. 

Is there systemic racism in this country, and what can be done about it? Short answer is, yes. Just look at the data on disparities between Anglos and Blacks, or Anglos and Latinos, and you can see there is a deeply-rooted problem. But there has been tremendous progress, and there is no other country in the world that has addressed race better than the United States. Nowhere else has there been the level of struggle and success on race as in America. So we just need to keep going. 

What is the one thing the FCC could do to really affect media ownership diversity? Change the rules to allow for no caps on ownership, but provide a regulatory or fiscal incentive (credits or rebates) to majority owners to partner with minority owners in a meaningful way.

If you could give the Biden administration one piece of advice on communications policy, what would it be? Actually two pieces: Don't dismantle legacy media and don't kill the geese that lay the golden eggs. Competition is good, but only if the rules are flattened and apply to everyone, so be fair with business and don't over-regulate. 

Bonus Five

Destination on your bucket list: Israel (again), Greece and Turkey

Books on your nightstand or tablet? The Greatest Words Ever Spoken, Steven K. Scott; Crushing, T.D. Jakes

Most memorable recent meal? [Wife] Karla's lasagna from scratch, and her German chocolate cake (also from scratch). 

Favorite music? I'm shamelessly stuck in the ‘70s: Marvin, Smokey, Delfonics, Dramatics, Isleys and old-school slow jams.

What do you miss the most during COVID? Church, movies (in theaters) and concerts.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.