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Baker to Leave FCC on June 3

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FCC Commssioner Meredith Attwell Baker has announced she will be leaving the commission June 3.
She did not say where she was going, but Comcast simultaneously announced she would become SVP, government affairs, for NBCU.

Baker's annoucement read, in part:

"I am privileged to have had the opportunity to serve the country at a time of critical transformation in the telecommunications industry. The continued deployment of our broadband infrastructures will meaningfully impact the lives of all Americans. I am happy to have played a small part in this success.

"I depart most proud of our collective efforts to focus on long-term comprehensive spectrum reform. It is the most important step we can take to ensure our nation's competitiveness in an increasingly interconnected world."

Baker joined the commission in July 2009.

At NBCU, Baker will be based in Washington and report to Kyle McSlarrow, president of Comcast/NBCUniversal for Washington, and work closely with Rick Cotton, NBCU executive vice president and general counsel.

NBCU's former head of government affairs in Washington, Bob Okun, announced last month he was exiting the company.

"Commissioner Baker is one of the nation's leading authorities on communications policy, and we're thrilled she's agreed to head the government relations operations for NBCUniversal," McSlarrow said in announcing the Baker hire. "Meredith's executive branch and business experience, along with her exceptional relationships in Washington, bring Comcast and NBCUniversal the perfect combination of skills."

Comcast quoted Baker as saying,"I've been privileged to serve in government for the past seven years under President Obama at the FCC and President Bush at NTIA; I'm excited to embark on a new phase of my career with Comcast and NBCUniversal."

Free Press, which was critical of the Comcast/NBCU merger--which Baker supported, along with the other commissioners--slammed the hire as a Comcast/FCC merger. "Less than four months after Commissioner Baker voted to approve Comcast's takeover of NBC Universal, she's reportedly departing the FCC to lobby for Comcast-NBC," said Craig Aaron, Free Press president. "This is just the latest -- though perhaps most blatant -- example of a so-called public servant cashing in at a company she is supposed to be regulating."

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), one of the Comcast/NBCU dea'ls strongest critics, was equally critical of Baker's announced exit. "FCC Commissioner Meredith Baker's announcement today that she will resign from the Commission to lobby for Comcast NBC Universal, mere months after casting her yes vote to approve the merger, further confirms my suspicion that the Commission's merger review - in cooperation with the Department of Justice (DOJ) - was overly politicized and rammed through in blatant disregard for the agencies' responsibility to the American people," said Waters in an e-mailed statement.

Media Access Project, which was also no fan of the merger, accentuated the positive, though that appeared to be before her move to Comcast/NBCU was confirmed. "We wish Commissioner Baker only the best, and we hope to be able to continue working with her in her new venture, whatever that may be," said Andrew Schwartzman, MAP's senior vice president and policy directo . "Commissioner Baker has been a consummate public servant. While her viewpoints have often differed from ours, she has always been open-minded, conscientious and dedicated to acting in the public interest as she saw it."

Just last month, Comcast hired a former FCC Commissioner, Rachelle Chong, to be its regional vice president of government affairs for California.

She is the former acting head of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration.
Before joining the NTIA, Baker was vice president of Williams Mullen Strategies and, prior to that, director of congressional affairs at the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association. Her resume also includes working in the legislative-affairs office at the State Department.

She is scheduled to go before a House Communications Subcommittee panel this Friday (May 13), along with the other commissioners, for a hearing on FCC process reform.

Baker's departure would leave the commission with a 3-to-1 Democratic majority, although Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps has indicated he is leaving sometime this year. His current term is up in June, as was Baker's; though she likely could have secured a renomination. Copps will have to leave by year's end whether or not a replacement has been confirmed.