Eyebrows were raised and watchdogs howled when news broke that FCC Commissioner Meredith Baker was leaving the Commission to join Comcast/NBCU, just months after she approved the joint venture between the two companies. But FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski told House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) that Baker handled the matter completely by the book.
In a 5/18/11 letter to Genachowski, Issa wrote, “Based on the public statements of both Commissioner Baker and the FCC, it does not appear that she violated any of her legal or ethical obligations in accepting a position with Comcast. Nevertheless, because only a short time has passed since the Comcast-NBC Universal merger, it is imperative that the public can trust the integrity of the process.” He then proceeded to ask a few questions.
Genachowski noted that Baker was prohibited from any actions to influence any employee of the FCC for two years, or until the Obama administration runs its course – which could keep her out of The Portals on a lobbying mission through January 2013, should Obama gain re-election.
Baker first revealed to FCC lawyers that she was considering the possibility of leaving the FCC for Comcast on 4/13/11, and formally announced that she was in talks with Comcast about a possible job on 4/18/11. From then on, she recused herself from any proceeding “…that would have a direcl and predictable effect on either NBCUniversal or Comcast.”
RBR-TVBR observation: We never had any doubt that Baker handled this matter ethically – she acted just as one would have expected regarding the Comcast/NBCU matter. The bigger question remains the judgment of Comcast on hiring her so soon after the deal was approved – because the howls of protest sparked by the hiring were never in doubt, either.