Editorial: The Commish

Here is what we know about new Republican FCC commissioner Michael O’Rielly at first blush. His “i before e” name is the bane of copy editors everywhere, he has a firm handshake and he has spent 20 years on the Hill, frequently working on legislation crucial to communications—the 1996 Communications Act and the spectrum auction legislation essentially bracketed that service.

Here’s what we think we know about O’Rielly, gleaned from our exclusive interview. He’s earnest in his desire to deregulate communications where it makes sense, including broadcasters facing heavy competition. He’s still on a learning curve and isn’t looking to fire before aiming, but he clearly has issues with the way the FCC is interpreting statute to achieve its regulatory ends.

We also accept his explanation that “stay strong for freedom,” his to-some off-putting exhortation at his nomination hearing and first FCC meeting, is not some rallying cry for a GOP takeover of the FCC. (Check out the online version of his B&C interview to learn just where that sign-off comes from.)

That’s not to say O’Rielly won’t use his bully pulpit powers to champion his deregulatory philosophy like his predecessor, Robert McDowell.

O’Rielly has already spoken out against tightening JSAs, and he tells B&C that his read on Congress’ intent in asking the FCC to review media ownership regs was a deregulatory mandate, not an invitation to more regulation.

How effective he can be from a minority seat will depend in part on how inclusive the Democratic FCC chairman is. We encourage chair Tom Wheeler to keep all commissioners in the loop on agenda items in the interests of transparency. We look forward to seeing how O’Rielly grows in his new post, but our initial impression is positive.