Skip to main content

Rosenworcel Returns, Who’s Next?

WASHINGTON — Jessica Rosenworcel looks as though she will be making a return to the Federal Communications Commission, filling its vacant Democratic seat — the president has signaled his intention to nominate her and the Senate will almost surely confirm.

Now, Washington insiders are turning toward candidates for a second Democratic seat in the event that Mignon Clyburn decides not to stay on past the end of her tenure, or President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats want to nominate someone else.

The current bet is that FCC general counsel Brendan Carr, a former adviser to chairman Ajit Pai when he was a commissioner, is a leading candidate for the other empty Republican seat. A source said the White House has signaled it would leave that pick up to Pai.

Trump has only signaled his intention to nominate Rosenworcel. Industry sources said that the paperwork on Carr hadn’t been completed sufficiently to pair the two announcements, which is typically how FCC nominations work. Another seat could open up, though.

Clyburn has not said whether or not she will stay on after her term expires June 30, or whether she has discussed that possibility with the Trump administration. She has sent cryptically valedictory signals, suggesting that she will continue to fight for issues such as diversity and inclusion and reasonable prison cellphone rates wherever she winds up. She declined to comment on her future plans.

In any event, Clyburn can serve, if she chooses, until a new person is nominated, vetted and confirmed or until the next Congress is seated — which would be in another year and a half — whichever comes first.

But Clyburn’s uncertain signals have prompted the name game that always crops up when an FCC seat could open up.

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.