As expected, Julius Genachowski appears headed for the top spot at the FCC. An FCC veteran with a background in communications technology, he is expected to forward broadband issues, and will likely have some interest in broadcast as well.
Genachowski was Chief Counsel to former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt from 1994-1997. He’s clerked for Supreme Court justices David H. Souter and the retired William J. Brennan, Jr. His high tech career includes stints at IAC/InterActiveCorp, Rock Creek Ventures and LaunchBox Digital. He was also a classmate of Barack Obama at Harvard.
Rapid deployment of broadband and preserving network neutrality were listed as high communications priorities by the Obama campaign, and his plank on these and other communications issues has transferred intact over to the change.gov transitional website since Obama’s election. In a December blog at that site, Genachoski praised it. “I recently heard this summary of the core principles of the Obama Technology & Innovation Plan,” he wrote. “Open Government. Open Networks. Open Markets. The plan is the most comprehensive and detailed tech & innovation plan put forward by any candidate. But also bold, and simple at its core.”
Genachowski was on the Obama transitional team and was frequently mentioned as a prime candidate as either FCC Chair or in the newly-created chief technology officer slot. It is thought that he opted for the FCC after conferring with people on Capitol Hill who pointed out that the CTO would not have only any direct regulatory power.
In addition to tech planks, Obama has indicated that he would like to increase diversity in broadcast ownership and to better define the license-related obligations of broadcasters (which likely will feed into the FCC’s pending localism NPRM). Obama’s technology plank can be found at change.gov under the agenda tab.
Genachowski sits on the board of Common Sense Media, an organization which seeks to aid parents in managing their children’s use of the media. It appears to be an alternative to Parents Television Council.
NAB congratulated Genachowski on his apparent nomination. President/CEO David K. Rehr said, "Julius Genachowski has a keen intellect, a passion for public service, and a deep understanding of the important role that free and local broadcasting plays in American life. NAB salutes President-elect Obama on this superb choice to lead the FCC."
Reuters notes that consumer, media and public interest groups have enthusiastically seconded the nomination even before it is made, and an easy path to congressional confirmation is expected.
RBR/TVBR observation: The unsurprising news is that a Democratic president running on a change platform selected an FCC chair with that philosophy in mind. Progressive watchdog Josh Silver of Free Press is ecstatic about this nomination, which should tell you all you need to know. The good news is that broadcasting is a mature medium, and the bulk of attention will likely be focused elsewhere.
We would like to note the Common Sense Media connection – it appears the child baton will be passing almost seamlessly from Deborah Taylor Tate to Genechowski. However, the Obama plank stresses the use of parental media management tools rather than assaults on the First Amendment, so we hope that Genachowski’s emphasis will be in that direction.