Obama Transition Team To Look At FCC

WASHINGTON, D.C. - President-Elect Barack Obama's transition team may show up at FCC headquarters to review its personnel and procedures as early as Nov. 17, according to a report on Broadcasting & Cable's news website.

One of the team's co-chairmen, John Podesta, who also serves as president of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, told reporters at a press conference that he is in the process of selecting the vetting teams this week, with their deployment to some of the over 100 agencies, departments and commissions beginning next Monday. Their objective is to provide the President elect and other members of his administration with "the information needed to make strategic policy, budgetary and personnel decisions prior to the inauguration."

As part of the tough ethics rules he has instituted regarding federal lobbyists, Podesta has ordered that no transition team member may work on policy for an agency or department to which that person has lobbied within the past 12 months, and that team members will have to cease all lobbying activities while serving on the transition team. Moreover, if a transition team member becomes a lobbyist after completing service on the team, that person would be barred from lobbying the administration for 12 months about any matters dealt with by the team on which they served. Each team member will also be required to sign an agreement to abide by the ethics code.

So even if any members of the myriad religious pro-censorship groups that have enjoyed virtually unfettered access to agencies like the FCC and its chairman Kevin J. Martin over the past eight years were chosen to take part in the Obama transition, they would be barred under the new rules from making FCC policy. Lists of all transition team members will be published before they are deployed to the various agencies.

While it is unclear at this point what issues the FCC transition team will deal with, certainly the transition to all-digital television broadcasting, scheduled to occur in mid-February, will be high on the list. Also of concern will be proposed rules allowing companies to own multiple radio and television stations in large urban markets.

Chairman Martin's five-year appointment to the commission will not expire until April, 2011, near the end of Obama's first term. However, Obama will likely replace Republican commissioner Robert M. McDowell when his term expires in June, 2009, and possibly (but unlikely) Democratic commissioners Michael J. Copps and Jonathan M. Adelstein in December of next year. However, since only three members of the five-member commission can be from any one political party, Obama may very well replace McDowell with another Republican, or possibly even a Green or Libertarian, so that he can replace Martin with a Democrat in 2011.