There's a new man at the helm of the FCC. Julius Genachowski assumed his new responsibilities at the end of June. His background has been covered extensively already, but it is worth noting that he has some experience with the FCC: He served as chief counsel to former FCC chairman Reed Hundt. He has also been involved with media and telecommunications in various roles, so at least he joins the agency with some familiarity as to its function.
There have been five FCC chairmen since 1993. With a new guy coming in, I looked back at his predecessors to see what their legacies have been.
Kevin Martin (2005 - 2009): He'll likely be remembered for ignoring procedures and micromanaging the agency.
Michael Powell (2001 - 2005): He was a champion of broadband over power lines. He also created the FCC University.
William Kennard (1997 - 2001): He fought for a competitive marketplace to all consumers. He was the champion of LPFM.
Reed Hundt (1993 - 1997): Under his reign, the FCC conducted the first spectrum auction in U.S. history, raising almost $20 billion in its first two years.
So what's in store for our new chairman?
As I noted earlier, he worked for Reed Hundt, who appears to be the most popular former FCC chairman to date. I still see Hundt's name from time to time, and he's still active in business and telecommunications. Perhaps Genchowski will benefit from the company he kept.
One big stroke in Genachowski's favor is that he replaces Kevin Martin. Martin took the chairman's job with mixed reviews, and had the potential to be a strong chairman, but Martin fell flat. Some would say that anyone would be better than Martin. That's not strong praise for the new guy per se, but it makes it easier when the initial expectations are already very low.
What does Genachowski have to look forward to? The FCC has plenty of pending issues before it.
FM translators for AM stations
Granted, this has been in the works for some time, but it was adopted within moments of Genachowski taking the big chair. He'll probably get the credit in the history books.
Most of the commissioners are opposed to reinstating it, which is good for broadcasters. Will the issue stick around long enough for their opinion to change?
This will be on the FCC's plate for some time because so many people see the supposed white spaces as a wide-open frontier for new uses. Broadcasters know better.
This is the topic that never goes away. Because of the topic's sensitive nature, Genachowski could be a hero for resolving it or take some heat for making it worse. It will all depend on how the final solution is played and presented.
Satellite radio merger
There are some requirements that were put in place to allow the merger. The FCC will have to act on these requirements or feel the wrath of the terrestrial broadcasters and the NAB.
Migratory birds and towers
This is yet another topic that has a potentially endless life because of the passionate groups on either side. Again, Genachowski can be hero for finding a solution, or a villain for making it worse. He can't please everyone, but if he can appease most of them he'll do fine.
I believe Genachowski will keep the FCC out of radio ratings. That's part of the business of radio. I don't see it as a direct part of serving the public interest, but that's the direction some are trying to take it. The Media Ratings Council can and should determine the future of the PPM.
Good luck in your new job, Mr. Genachowski.
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