Is The Lame-Duck FCC A True-Life Telenovela?

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the weeks to Inauguration Day get closer, the drama surrounding the FCC and its supposedly outgoing Chairman, Tom Wheeler, and that of Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel only seems to be growing.


Now, the suspense and the what if scenarios have built to the point where script-writers from Telemundo Studios may wish to set up shop at 445 12th Street SW.

The latest chapter in Pretty Little Legislators centers around Mr. Wheeler, who may stick around as a Democratic Commissioner — or not. According to Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill, Wheeler will step down as FCC Chairman if it “ensures” that the Senate confirms Rosenworcel for another term.

The newspaper cited an unnamed FCC official as its source.

As members of Congress ended the week on Friday, there was no indication that a reconfirmation of Rosenworcel would come before it adjourns for the holidays. If that fails to occur, Rosenworcel’s time is up, and would force her to pack up her office after a year in limbo and a pawn in partisan posturing that has made the FCC one of the most politically charged bodies in the District of Columbia.

Meanwhile, Wheeler has the right to stay on the FCC until 2018. But, he would be demoted to a common commissioner as Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai is a near-lock on becoming interim Chairman — and perhaps full Chairman — once Donald Trump succeeds Barack Obama on Jan. 20.

Does Wheeler want to stay at the FCC, given his poor relationship with the NAB and many a group head?

“I think Mr. Wheeler would enjoy other pursuits,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) told The Hill.

Where does this leave Rosenworcel, the swing vote that doomed Wheeler’s mysterious not-yet-publicly seen set-top box proposal?

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) noted to a group of Capitol Hill reporters on Thursday (12/8) that Rosenworcel should not be confirmed. This would fully empower President-Elect Trump, she explained.

Meanwhile, another Capitol Hill news source, Politico, noted Friday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had circulated a cloture motion on her nomination, according to multiple sources, but did not file it on the Senate floor. This would have allowed for a Dec. 10 vote.

Politico notes that Rosenworcel could theoretically still be approved by unanimous consent. However,  with Senate Republicans inluding Ron Johnson of Wisconsin against her continuing as a Commissioner, moving boxes could be stacked outside her office very soon.


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Adam R Jacobson is a veteran radio industry journalist and advertising industry analyst with general, multicultural and Hispanic market expertise. From 1996 to 2006 he served as an editor at Radio & Records.