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Rep. Walden Takes Aim at FCC's Distinguished Scholar

The FCC's first Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Stuart Benjamin, has come under fire from Republican and former broadcasters Greg Walden of Oregon, who says Benjamin's appointment "jeopardizes the FCC's credibility."

In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Walden, a longtime member of the House Communications Subcommittee, has asked for an explanation of Benjamin's "exact role" at the FCC and wants assurances broadcast regulations will be proposed on their merits rather than on "some ulterior motive to sabotage broadcasters."

Walden's letter was prompted by Benjamin's writings as a law professor, partly in jest he has said, that it would be in the public interest to regulate broadcasters out of existence so their spectrum could be reclaimed for other uses. Walden says it will always leave the hanging question of whether an order relating to localism, public interest obligations, or media ownership is necessary or simply aimed at harming broadcasters.

Broadcasters are particularly sensitive about their spectrum holdings given the FCC's avowed interest in getting spectrum back for wireless broadband.

"It troubles me that you would place someone with such radical views in a position of influence over spectrum policy," said Walden. The FCC has said Benjamin would be ruminating on spectrum and First Amendment issues, among others.

Both Democrat Genachowski and Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell have praised the choice of Benjamin, but the choice has certainly not sat well with broadcasters