FCC Chair Choice Sparks Hope for Net Neutrality, Other Issues Less Clear

Last month Matthew Lasar dug up info on this mysterious Julius Genachowski whose name starting circulating as a candidate for Obama’s FCC Chairman. Late Monday night the news broke that Genachowski is slated to be Obama’s nominee for the job. As Matthew noted in his Ars Technica article yesterday, the public interest community is responding positively to this news, primarily based upon Genachowski’s work on Obama’s “Technology and Innovation” plan. Given that candidate Obama was specific in his support for Network Neutrality, the hope inspired by Genchowski’s likely nomination appears to be more well founded than any other news on the Net Neutrality front in the last year.

However, much is still unknown about Genachowski’s views on media issues, like ownership concentration and indecency enforcement. He was an assistant to Clinton-appointed FCC Chairman Reed Hundt in the 1990s, and we might learn a little bit about Genachowski by looking at his former boss’ tenure at the Commission. With regard to media ownership, Hundt opposed lifting the nationwide radio ownership cap. The lifting of the cap–which brought on the Clear Channel era–happened with the passing of the Telecomm Act of 1996 by Congress, signed by President Clinton, and was not decided by the Hundt FCC. Hundt was also a proponent of children’s programming requirements, while also pushing for indecency fines against the likes of Howard Stern.

We’re sure to learn more about Genachowski’s views on a whole panoply of communication issues when he goes up for confirmation by the Senate. Here’s hoping that his apparently progressive outlook on Net Neutrality is combined with the willingness to put the brakes on the Bush FCC’s full-speed gallop on loosening media ownership limits. I must admit that ensuring a free and open internet, along with enacting policies to stimulate high-speed broadband build-out really should be the top priority for media and telecomm, above all.

With the lessons learned from the 1996 Telecomm Act and the ill-considered experiment of taking away common carrier status from internet (therefore creating the need for Net Neutrality) there exists a blueprint for creating a much more vibrant, diverse and free media ecology.

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  1. Obama’s Pick: Hope for the FCC? | The Agitationist - February 9, 2009

    […] for Genachowski, where is he on the other issues to face the FCC? As Mediageek points out, we can infer from his experience as assistant to FCC chairman Reed Hundt during the […]

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