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Obama Packs Agencies With Telecom-Savvy Picks

The Obama administration has been looking to tap some communications-savvy folks to fill its ranks, and not just at places like the Federal Communications Commission, where telecom knowhow is part of the job description.

The latest is former Discovery Communications president Judith McHale. President Obama wants her to be the undersecretary of public diplomacy and public affairs at the State Department, after she co-chaired the platform committee at last year's Democratic National Convention.

Last week, the Senate Commerce Committee scheduled a nomination hearing for Cameron Kerry as general counsel at the Commerce Department. Kerry, younger brother of Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass.), has helped cable fight numerous battles as an attorney at Mintz Levin and has written and taught on the subject.

At the Department of Energy, Scott Blake Harris is in line to be general counsel. Like Kerry, he's a veteran communications attorney - he ran the telecom practice at Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis - and has represented satellite, wireless and computer companies. He also foreshadowed the administration's digital-TV position in a paper last fall on communications issues facing Obama. "Many predict the transition is as inevitable as is a car wreck once a car begins to slide down an icy hill," he wrote. "It is possible the new administration may try to reduce the damage, though, by delaying the DTV transition for a couple of months so it can focus."

OK, so it was three months.

And former Time Warner Inc. chairman Dick Parsons, a member of the transition team's Economic Advisory Board, was reportedly considered for Commerce Secretary at one time.

"This has to be good for cable," a longtime cable exec from the Democratic camp noted after Harris and Kerry's nods. "Hey, after eight years in the desert, I get excited about the little things."

John Eggerton
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.