Mr. Genachowski Goes to Congress

The country’s digital TV transition now history, Congress Tuesday gets its first view of what else President Obama could have coming from the Federal Communications Commission.

The Senate Commerce Committee is slated to hold a confirmation hearing on the president’s nomination of his close friend and campaign adviser Julius Genachowski as the new FCC chairman, as well as Robert McDowell, a Republican, to another term on the FCC.

The hearing apparently hints of Senate plans to move ahead with confirmation of both men before the Fourth of July recess, though there has been no formal announcement of that plan by committee chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., or his staff.

Genachowski, 46, was chief counselor at the FCC when Reed Hundt was chairman, and subsequently a senior executive at Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp. After leaving IAC, he was co-founder and managing director or LaunchBox Digital and Rock Creek Ventures.

He also has dealt with children’s issues as a board member of Common Sense Media and he was a founding partner of New Resource Bank, a San Francisco bank focusing on green issues.

Tapped to head the FCC since shortly after the November election, the nomination has been on hold pending the DTV transition.

Genachowski and President Obama have known each other since their Harvard Law School days together and Genachowski was the chief drafter of the Obama campaign’s Technology and Innovation Plan. That plan is now part of Obama’s agenda as listed on the White House website includes a number of FCC-related initiatives.

It calls for deploying a “next generation” broadband, protecting the internet’s viability through “network neutrality” and giving parents more tools to protect their kids seemingly as an alternative to the FCC pursuing kind of indecency enforcement actions that were the hallmarks of the last chairman of the FCC, Republican Kevin Martin. It also calls for increasing privacy protection, potentially an issue if media companies try too hard to target viewers with personal ads.

A section of the plan hints of where Genachowski will head on media issues.

“Encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media, promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints, and clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation’s spectrum,” the section says.

Senators on the Commerce Committee weren’t thrilled with Martin. He drew criticism for pushing ahead with media ownership rules changes — though they were eventually set aside by the court — and for not doing enough to prepare for the DTV transition.

Genachowski is expected to get questions Tuesday on media ownership changes, especially in light of economic problems that have hurt  media companies since the November election.


An appellate court decision on Monday delaying any changes in newspaper broadcast cross ownership pending a court hearing could bring additional questions.