Reaction to President Obama's pick for new FCC chairman is a mixed bag

Published: Friday, May 3 2013 9:13 p.m. MDT

A wide variety of reactions quickly greeted President Barack Obama's Wednesday announcement that he would nominate Tom Wheeler to become chairman of the Federal Communications Commission — a position that will make major policy decisions about important issues such as how to enforce decency standards for broadcast radio and TV.

Wheeler, 67, is a venture capitalist and former lobbyist for the cable and wireless industries. If confirmed, he would replace outgoing FCC chairman Julius Genachowski.

The website Deadline New York reported several strong endorsements for Wheeler's pending nomination: "National Cable Television Association chief Michael Powell — who was FCC chairman from 2001 to 2005 — called Wheeler 'an exceptional choice.' Comcast CEO Brian Roberts lauded Wheeler's 'vast knowledge of the communications industry, as well as his proven leadership.' The National Association of Broadcasters' Gordon Smith says the nominee has 'the experience and temperament to serve the agency with distinction.'"

Reporting for technology website CNET, Marguerite Reardon wrote, "Some consumer advocates have worried about his past as an industry lobbyist. They fear that his positions may lean too much toward the industries he once lobbied to protect. Still, some outspoken consumer groups, such as Public Knowledge, say Wheeler will be a fair and proactive chairman who will continue to push the president's policies of an open Internet and competition in the market."

But contrary to the optimism of Public Knowledge, New Yorker columnist John Cassidy panned Wheeler's nomination in a blog post headlined "Obama's bad pick: A former lobbyist at the FCC." "The closer you look at Wheeler's selection, the more questionable it appears. After being poorly led for more than a decade … a strong argument can be made that the last thing the FCC needs is an industry insider with close ties to many of the companies it oversees."

Email: jaskar@desnews.com

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