Wheeler Hosts Host of Ex-FCCers

The Federal Communications Commission celebrated its 80th birthday on June 19 with a reunion of former chairpersons and commissioners, hosted by the current chairman, Tom Wheeler.

It was described by one attendee as “mostly old friends talking,” as well as snacking, though there were speeches by Wheeler and former chairs Mignon Clyburn, Michael Copps, Michael Powell, Reed Hundt and Dick Wiley.

In addition to all the current commissioners, who made it to the late afternoon gathering in the commission room, excommissioners included Robert McDowell, Jonathan Adelstein, Rachel Chong, Harold Furchtgott- Roth and Andrew Barrett.

The press was not invited to the party to monitor those conversations. In fact, at press time, the only online reference I could find to “FCC 80th Anniversary” was to a Filipino Christian Church celebration in 2013. (Gotta love Google.) But I have it on impeccable authority that a chocolate cake boasted a “Happy 80th Anniversary FCC” (rather than “birthday”) message.

I’m told that former chairman Wiley deadpanned that he had been around when the 1934 Act was signed by Franklin Roosevelt. And Powell pointed out that while he was appointed by another president to an important position that had a great effect on the economy and people’s lives, what he would be remembered for was examining Janet Jackson’s breasts (a reference to the 2004 Super Bowl reveal that embroiled the FCC in a controversy that arguably had no precedent in those 80 years).

The FCC milestone comes as some in Congress are calling for the agency’s dissolution, or at least diminution. A relevant FCC is still needed, but that means one that recognizes the limits of its authority, figures out how to speed its processes and does not play politics with the nation’s communications system.

That FCC deserves a few more birthdays.

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.