Former FCC Commissioner Benjamin Hooks Dies at 85

Former FCC commissioner Benjamin Hooks died Thursday morning
(April 15), according to numerous reports, which said he had been in hospice

Hooks, 85, had been a commissioner from 1972 to 1977. After
he left the FCC, he was the long-time executive director of the NAACP.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski Thursday praised Hooks:
"The nation lost a great leader today in the passing of civil rights
champion and former FCC Commissioner Benjamin L. Hooks," Genachowski said
in a statement. "His historic appointment as the first African-American
Commissioner forever changed the FCC, reminding us of our mission to promote
the interests of all Americans."

"During his five-year tenure at the FCC in the early
1970s, Mr. Hooks worked tirelessly to expand opportunities for minorities and
the poor, communities that had long been without a strong voice at the agency
or in the media landscape," said the chairman. "He was a fierce
advocate for minority broadcast ownership and increasing minority employment in
the broadcast industry."

"Ben Hooks was a dedicated public servant and a true gentleman," said Tyrone Brown, FCC commissioner from 1977 to 1981 and now president of Media Access Project. "His commitment to participation by minority Americans in all aspects of radio, TV and telecommunications-as technicians and programmers, as talent and editors, and owners-set the foundation for a discussion that continues to this day. He showed me, his successor at the FCC, that civil debate can win majorities, where table-pounding might not."

Dick Wiley, now of Wiley Rein and chairman of the FCC when Hooks was a member, remembered him as a "preacher, a patriot and a terrific regulator. If you ever heard him in the pulpit, you would believe, " said Wiley. "He had that old-time preacher ability to really bring you to your feet." The former chairman called Hooks "very balanced in his views, and a humanitarian above all."

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.