Kerry Named To Head New Communications & Tech Subcommittee

As expected, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller has created a new Communications and Technology Subcommittee, and had named frequent media critic John Kerry (D-MA) to head it up.

Ranking member on the committee will be John Ensign (R-NV).

Rockefeller at one time was expected to head up the subcommittee, but when Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye decided to move to Appropriations, Rockefeller took that spot.

Kerry would likely not be the media's top pick for oversight of their industry.

“There’s a huge agenda on our plates, from the digital television
transition, expanding access to broadband, promoting greater diversity
in media ownership, and following through on the 9/11 Commission
recommendation to build a nationwide interoperable public safety
network,” said Kerry of his appointment. “I’m looking forward to diving
into these issues and building consensus for good public policy.”

Kerry is on the record as critical of the demise of the FCC's fairness doctrine, calling that demise one of the "most profound changes in the balance of the media," in a 2007 radio interview, adding that conservatives have been able to "squeeze down and squeeze out opinion of opposing views. I think it has been a very important transition in the imbalance of our public dialog."

He also has been critical of media consolidation and pushed the FCC to allow unlicensed devices in TV white spaces, something broadcasters fought hard against.

Kerry teamed with then-Senator Barack Obama to try and block the FCC's relaxation of the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban.

Kerry is also a fan of codifying network neutrality principles, something cable and phone networks would prefer evolved along with their industry.

Kerry is also planning to out a laser-like focus on developing a broadband strategy, which in a commentary for The Hill, he contrasted with the "laissez faire" approach of the Bush administration.

That means higher speeds, public-private partnerships, as well as an open, transparent Internet.

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.