Julius Genachowski has yet to say anything officially about departing as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, but Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem are already campaigning to replace him with a her.
A petition drive launched by their Women’s Media Center suggests it is high time for the nation’s media agency to have its first female chairman.
”President Obama has the chance to democratize the media with one key appointment in the next few weeks,” says the petition, addressed to Tina Tchen, executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. “He should pick a woman.”
“Maybe there is no easy fix to getting women into the top jobs in the telecom and media industries, but the government watchdog can and should be headed by a woman,” says the petition.
Julie Burton, president of the center, said in an interview with The Wrap, that the center feels the appointment of a female FCC chairman would send a message and have impact, just as the hiring of two minority male chairmen had in boosting media companies’ hiring and activities around minorities.
“We may not know how much effect it will have, but it is time to find out,” she said.
She pointed especially to the FCC’s chairman’s bully pulpit.
“The chair of the FCC speaks at every major trade show. Having a woman as chair would bring an important message to people who are bringing business to the FCC. It could affect women in the pipeline in the industry,” she said. “It would have a ripple effect to have a woman in that role.”
While the petition went up Jan. 4, the campaign has been stepped up in the wake of the departure of several prominent women in the Obama administration. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson are all leaving.
Genachowski, a close friend of Obama's who has known the president since their college days, was sworn in as FCC chairman in June 2009 and his term expires June 30. He could continue serving beyond that date until a replacement is confirmed.
In November in an interview on CNBC, Genachowski said he still had a lot to accomplish and no immediate plan to leave.
Confirmation of any replacement could take months and could become highly politicized. Republicans have expressed concern about the FCC’s stance on net neutrality and its demand for concessions in media mergers under Genachowski.