What Now For The FCC?

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As RBR + TVBR reported Thursday morning (12/15), FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will step down and depart the Commission on Jan. 20, 2017 — the day that President-Elect Donald Trump takes office.


Where the Commission goes now is uncertain. However, the new Chairman will undoubtedly steer the FCC in a very different direction. With Wheeler’s exit coming after Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel‘s expected Jan. 3, 2017 departure after failing to get a reconfirmation vote in the Senate, the FCC will have a temporary 2-1 Republican majority.

Under a Trump administration, this could become a 4-1 GOP-dominated FCC, leaving Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn — a one-time interim FCC Chairman herself — in a delicate spot.

In a statement, Wheeler called his three-year tenure as Chairman — “during this period of historic technological change” — the greatest honor of his professional life.

Wheeler added that he was deeply grateful to President Obama for the opportunity to serve as FCC Chairman, and is “especially thankful to the talented Commission staff for their service and sacrifice during my tenure. Their achievements have contributed to a thriving communications sector, where robust investment and world-leading innovation continue to drive our economy and meaningful improvements in the lives of the American people.”

He also called it a “privilege” to work with his fellow Commissioners “to help protect consumers, strengthen public safety and cybersecurity, and ensure fast, fair and open networks for all Americans.”

What do Inside-The-Beltway Communications attorneys think an FCC without Wheeler means for broadcasters? For one, relief for small businesses on the data-driven paperwork needed to comply with Federal regulations is hoped for.


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Adam R Jacobson is a veteran radio industry journalist and advertising industry analyst with general, multicultural and Hispanic market expertise. From 1996 to 2006 he served as an editor at Radio & Records.