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Music, Education Groups Urge Biden To Nominate Rosenworcel to FCC Chair

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel
Jessica Rosenworcel (Image credit: FCC)

A host of groups have been pressing President Joe Biden to finally name a chair of the Federal Communications Commission, specifically to take the acting from in front of the title of Jessica Rosenworcel, currently heading up the agency on a temporary basis.

It is not unusual for there to be an acting chair during the changeover in administrations, but Rosenworcel‘s almost nine months is pushing the outside of the envelope in terms of precedent for acting chair tenures.

Most recent was a letter from music groups Artist Rights Alliance, MusicAnswers and the Songwriters Guild of America, which were singing her praises.

Also Read: Senators Push Biden for Permanent FCC Chair

They asked the President to ”quickly nominate acting chair Jessica Rosenworcel to a full term leading the Federal Communications Commission.“

They cited Rosenworcel’s progressive positions on media consolidation, boosting competition in the tech and telecom spaces and her ”pro-creator“ positions.

“Acting chair Rosenworcel clearly sees the fast-moving and cross-cutting nature of modern media markets, and we believe she will effectively lead the commission to consider the unique equities of music creators when evaluating competition, consolidation, and other marketplace issues,” they wrote.

While they said they recognized there were a number of able candidates, they said the risk of continued delay and the possibility of a “a less-tested and less readily confirmable candidate,” was not worth taking.

Rosenworcel has already been vetted and nominated multiple times, but unless she is re-nominated for a new term, preferably as chairman the groups say, she will have to exit at year's end since her current term has expired.

“In these polarized times where the Administration has been forced to withdraw highly-qualified candidates for other agencies, acting chair Rosenworcel’s clear path to confirmation is an overwhelmingly important factor,” the groups said.

The groups also pointed out that 30 House Democratic congresswomen have noted that the FCC has never had a Senate-confirmed female chair. The FCC‘s first female acting chair was Mignon Clyburn, who was also in that post for months due to a hold on the nomination of eventual chair Tom Wheeler.

Among groups also sending letters to the President over the past few days backing Rosenworcel were a host of education and library groups — from the American Library Association and National Education Association to the national associations representing principals, superintendents, teachers and schools.

All those are big backers of Rosenworcel as a key ally in support of the FCC's E-Rate subsidy program, which funds advanced telecommunications to schools and libraries, and of advancing ed tech.

Closing the homework gap, which has gained new impetus during COVID-19, has been a Rosenworcel mantra for as long as she has been on the commission.

Called a Friend of Education

Saying Rosenworcel has been a steadfast and trusted friend to the educational community, the groups urged the president “to retain this tremendous public servant by nominating her to another term at the commission and designating her as chair, thereby formalizing a role that she has executed brilliantly for the past several months.”

It is unclear to many inside the Beltway why the President has yet to nominate a non-acting chair — and third Democrat — given issues like net neutrality and media ownership regulation that the FCC is unlikely to tackle before that happens.

Washington watchers remain a bit perplexed by the ongoing lack of a permanent chair.

Initial delays were thought to involve a decision between Rosenworcel and current commissioner Geoffrey Starks. Starks had the backing of the Congressional Black Caucus, whose leading figure, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), helped elect Biden with his key endorsement in South Carolina’s Democratic primary. (Clyburn is the father of former acting FCC chair Mignon Clyburn).

But another name for chair has also been talked about inside the Beltway recently: Catherine Sandoval, former FCC staffer and currently a member of the California Public Utilities Commission, the first Hispanic female in that post. She would also be the first Hispanic FCC chair if the president chose her, but would need a confirmation hearing and Senate vote, which could mean no full commission until 2022.

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.