FCC Nominee Tom Wheeler Faces Senate Panel At Confirmation Hearing
June 19, 2013 at 4:02 AM (PT)
Nominee for FCC Chairman TOM WHEELER testified TUESDAY at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, spending close to three hours, suggesting that the broadcast industry might need a repeat of former FCC Chairman NEWTON MINOW's "vast wasteland" speech to prod it into improving programming. While the panel had some tense moments and WHEELER remained non-specific on most issues, his confirmation is still expected.
WHEELER, asked by Sen. TIM SCOTT (R-SC) about how he would approach broadcast indecency, noted that he has three new grandchildren and "when I see some things I kind of grit my teeth and say 'is this what I want my grandkids to be seeing.'" But he added that "the courts have been pretty specific and restrictive. I do believe, however, that it is possible to call upon our better angels with some leadership." Recalling MINOW, WHEELER said that MINOW used the "vast wasteland" speech to push the industry to improve, and "did that without regulatory authority. He caught the public's attention. Maybe it's possible to do the same kind of thing today, and say, 'can't we do better?'"
Responding to Sen. TED CRUZ (R-TX) on the FCC's authority to enforce political advertising disclosure rules or "regulate political speech," WHEELER gave a noncommittal answer saying that he needs to learn about the issue, drawing CRUZ's response that the political ad issue is "the one issue that... has the potential to derail your nomination."
To Sen, MARIA CANTWELL (D-WA) and her question on media ownership in light of the GANNETT-BELO television deal last week, WHEELER called himself "an advocate of diversity of voices" but did not elaborate on how he would address large mergers and sales, telling the Senator that he was "specifically trying not to be specific."
Other issues addressed in the marathon session included retransmission consent, television sports blackouts, cellphone unlocking, and the transition from broadcast to IP transmission.