Fred Upton prevails in House Commerce contest


In the hotly-contested battle for the chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the Republican steering committee nod went to Fred Upton (R-MI) over Joe Barton (R-TX). Barton, the current ranking member, indicated he will not continue to pursue the chair prior to ratification.

Upton has vowed to battle the FCC over any attempts to install network neutrality regulation.

A former chair of what is now known as the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, his greatest claim to broadcasting fame is his sponsorship of the Broadcast Decency Act, which eventually enshrined a top drawer indecent broadcast FCC fine of $325K into law.

He has also gone on the record favoring raising the local caps on radio station ownership to as many as 12 in the largest media markets.

The next thing to watch in the committee is who gets the Communications subcommittee. It is currently headed by Cliff Stearns (R-FL), who may have damaged his prospects for moving on to its chair by competing with Upton for the full committee chair while at the same time backing Barton over Upton.

Former radio broadcaster Greg Walden (R-OR) has quietly become a member of the Republican House leadership circle and is a possibility to chair Communications. Lee Terry (R-NE) has also expressed interest.

Henry Waxman (D-CA) figures to continue on as the Democratic leader of the full committee. However, Communications chair Rick Boucher (D-VA) lost his re-election bid. Contenders to replace him as ranking member in the next Congress are Bobby Rush (D-IL), Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA).

Commenting on Upton’s assumption fo the chair, NAB’s Gordon Smith said, “NAB looks forward to working with Congressman Upton in his new role as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Over the years, Fred Upton has served Congress with class and integrity, and has shown a willingness to find meaningful solutions to real problems that confront the American people. We welcome his chairmanship and the opportunity to make the case in his committee for preserving and enhancing free and local broadcasting.”

RBR-TVBR observation: Upton’s six-figure indecency fine may be a shining example of the law of unintended consequences. Not only has it never been used, the FCC hasn’t been issuing any indecency fines to speak of since it added the $325K fine-bomb to counter broadcast f-bombs. With the stakes raised, court battles have been in almost continuous session, and the FCC has for the most part been losing.