Clyburn, Baker Confirmed For FCC

The full Senate has approved the nominations of Mignon Clyburn and Meredith Attwell Baker to the two remaining seats on the FCC, according to a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. That means the commission could be at full strength--five commissioners--by next week.

The vote came Friday afternoon by unanimous consent, which meant a vote was not taken.

Clyburn got her first national public vetting Wednesday (July 15) as she and Baker answered questions from Senators during their nomination hearing to fill the two remaining unfilled FCC commission chairs. Both were praised by both sides and their nominations vocally supported by numerous committee members.

Baker is the former acting head of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration. Clyburn is a South Carolina utility regulator and daughter of House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC).

Baker is fulfilling the unexpired term of former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, which runs through June 30, 2011. Clyburn gets a full five years, taking the seat vacated by Deborah Taylor Tate, whose term expired in January.

Clyburn said she would be consumer- and public-interest focused. She gave a shout out for high-speed and affordable broadband, said she opposed the fairness doctrine "in any way shape or form," supported Internet openness, and was wary of media consolidation.

Baker also disavowed the doctrine and talked about the importance of broadband, including incentives to business. She said she would be wary of new network neutrality regulations in a marketplace that seemed to be working. She said she supported an open Internet, but that reasonable network management was necessary so that operators could block access to illegal content like porn and pirated copyright works. She said the current system of swift enforcement of openness violations was working and the way to proceed.

Clyburn agreed that when she was talking about openness, it applied to legal content. She said that network operators should have "reasonable tools" to control what goes over their networks. She said that whether network neutrality regs were needed would depend on whether the market was competitive. If so, there might be no need, but if not, it warranted consideration.

In what might not bode well for fans of newspaper-broadcast crossownership, both Baker and Clyburn said they had concerns about concentration of control of broadcast ownership, though Baker did point to a changing marketplace of increasing competition.

Also getting Senate confirmation Friday in the same unanimous consent vote was former FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein. He has been tapped by the Obama administration to head the AG Department's Rural Utilities Service.

The move will only be a couple blocks from his former FCC digs. He will be working closely with the FCC and NTIA on broadband deployment. RUS has $2.5 billion in broadband stimulus grant and loan money to give out, a process that began earlier this month.

And Adelstein may be gone from the FCC, but cetainly not forgotten.

“I would like to congratulate former FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein on his Senate confirmation to serve as head of U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS)," said Genachowski. "Jonathan’s long history of outstanding public service in Congress and at the Commission will be a tremendous benefit to the important work of the USDA. I look forward to forging a strong partnership with Jonathan as the FCC and RUS collaborate to extend the benefits of broadband to all corners of the country.”

And this from former FCC colleague, Commissioner Robert McDowell:

“I congratulate my good friend, Jonathan Adelstein, on his confirmation by the U.S. Senate to be the Administrator of the Rural Utilities Service. I am confident that Jonathan will be an outstanding leader of that agency, which has tremendous influence over our country's broadband future.  From his boyhood roots in South Dakota - the heart of rural America, to his many years of service working for Senators Tom Daschle and Harry Reid, to his two terms as a commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission, Jonathan is uniquely qualified to lead the RUS during this crucial time.  I know he will do an excellent job." 

“I congratulate my friend, Meredith Attwell Baker, on her confirmation
to be Commissioner of the FCC.  Meredith brings to the Commission vast
experience in both the public and private sectors, a deep understanding
of the communications marketplace, and a steadfast commitment to public
service.  I am excited to continue working with Meredith as we grow to
a full Commission. I am pleased to congratulate Mignon Clyburn on her
confirmation as a Commissioner of the FCC.  As I have noted before, we
all stand to benefit from her strong communications background as a
Commissioner on South Carolina’s Public Service Commission and as a
newspaper publisher coupled with her extensive involvement in community

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.