New season, new FCC

by Steve Blum • ,

I’m not saying Mike O’Rielly looks anything like this, but really, Bill O’Reilly does.

The Federal Communications Commission should be up to full strength by September. President Obama rubber stamped the recommendation of U.S. senate republicans and appointed Mike O’Rielly to take the empty GOP seat on the commission. He’s likely to walk hand in hand through the senate confirmation process with another Washington insider, Tom Wheeler, Obama’s pick for FCC chair.

Wheeler is a former cable and mobile phone industry lobbyist who has been involved in venture capital pursuits lately, at least when he’s not busy raising money for presidential campaigns. The U.S. senate commerce committee gave him the okay on Tuesday, amid grumbling by republicans that Obama was slow to name a replacement for Robert McDowell, who left the commission in the spring. Since senate rules make it easy to delay such things, O’Rielly’s nomination two days later is no surprise.

Neither is the praise heaped on him yesterday and today by industry lobbying groups and companies regulated by the FCC, without offering much in the way of supporting evidence. In contrast to Wheeler, who has spent much of his career in the public spotlight, not much is known about O’Rielly – even Google can’t find a photo of him – except that he’s apparently been a senate staffer all of his working life. Reuters spoke to people who say they know him

Industry insiders…described him as deeply knowledgeable about the issues he would address at the FCC thanks for the years of experience on Capitol Hill. But several also picked the word “prickly” in talking of his personal style.

With Wheeler as skipper, O’Rielly takes his place alongside Ajit Pai in the republican dugout, and Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn on the democratic bench.