The Trump Administration has moved ahead with its nomination to a FCC Commissioner’s seat — presently held by embattled Republican Mike O’Rielly — of an individual who has been in his current position of National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Senior Advisor for all of four months.
As was predicted last week, Nathan Simington has emerged as the White House’s nominee to serve on the Commission.
He would succeed O’Rielly, a strict First Amendment advocate who has become a target of the Trump White House for his decision to approve an application from Ligado to facilitate 5G and “Internet of Things” services. Comments on social media the Fairness Doctrine made July 29 during a virtual luncheon address are also at play, as his O’Rielly’s stance on Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1996.
This section states that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” It provides immunity from civil liabilities for information service providers that remove or restrict content from their services they deem “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.”
Whether or not the Senate will take up Simington’s nomination by the White House before the November presidential election has been the subject of debate across Washington. The current belief by many Inside the Beltway wonks: No, it won’t.
That makes the 2020 presidential election likely a deciding factor in what happens to O’Rielly or to Simington. A Trump victory would all but doom O’Rielly’s future on the Commission, allowing for a Senate confirmation hearing. A Biden victory would set the stage for the ascension of Jessica Rosenworcel to the Chairman’s seat, and likely lead present Chairman Ajit Pai to exit, keeping O’Rielly in place with his renomination from a Democratic-controlled White House after a brief period away from the FCC.
That’s what happened in early 2017 to Rosenworcel, who also ended up a pawn in a D.C. political chess match.
The NAB offered an arguably tepid reaction in approval of the announcement from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
“NAB congratulates Nathan Simington on his nomination to the FCC,” NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith said in a statement. “We wish him the best during the confirmation process and look forward to working with him on the critical issues affecting local radio and TV broadcasters should he be confirmed to the Commission.”
The word should is key, here. And, there’s no expectation that Simington will get a confirmation anytime soon.