White House Vetting Wheeler

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has yet to announce his exit date, but the consensus of FCC watchers from both parties is that former cable and telecom exec Tom Wheeler is poised to be nominated to succeed him as chair of the FCC.

Communications attorneys, lobbyists and others last week said they expected an announcement soon, and that it would probably be accompanied by commissioner Mignon Clyburn being named interim chairman.

It could take from several weeks to several months to vet and vote on Wheeler, along with a Republican to replace exiting commissioner Robert McDowell. The name of Michael O’Rielly, a staffer with Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), continues to surface for the McDowell seat.

Clyburn is the senior Democrat on the FCC after Genachowski, and would be the first African- American woman to chair the commission.

President Obama has been under pressure to name a woman to succeed Genachowski, and qualified candidates include Clyburn, FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and longtime Obama adviser Karen Kornbluh.

But naming Clyburn interim chair would at least break the female drought in the top seat, and if her tenure stretched to months, she could make an imprint on the commission, as interim chair Michael Copps did in overseeing the digital transition after Kevin Martin’s exit and before Genachowski came on board. Last week, 50 groups called for a chair who would make boosting minority media ownership a top priority.

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.