It’s safe to say there will be no parting gifts for outgoing FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler from the radio industry. On Thursday, Wheeler announced he’d be stepping down as FCC Chairman on January 20, the same day Donald Trump is inaugurated. Wheeler is a Democrat. Trump a Republican. There’s a lot of hope in radioland that either Commissioner Pai or Commissioner O’Reilly will be appointed Chair, at least temporarily. Both are very friendly to radio. Following the Wheeler announcement we reached out to radio executives all over the country and asked them to give Wheeler a report card on how he did for the radio industry. It was not pretty. Here’s just a sample of how your industry feels about how Wheeler performed during his three years on the job.
“I wish he would have focused more on the reason we have an FCC in the first place: To help foster good practices and full, free and fair distribution of the airwaves for the good of the American people. And free access for all of the valuable and entertaining, content-rich programming provided by our industry, not to mention the unparalleled public service and life saving information we consistently and diligently provide every day to the audiences we serve. Free over the air broadcast is the heart of this nation, and policing the unauthorized (READ: Pirate) mis-use of the airways, enforcing the rules and regulations of the FCC in a timely and efficient manner, and a better appreciation of the important service we provide to the public, should be paramount to its mission. Unfortunately, he spent an inordinate amount of time the FCC focused on the use of the airwaves that are not free to the public and they are exploited to some extent because of the lack of emphasis on their public service roles.”
President/Chief Executive Officer
New Jersey Broadcasters Association
“Hard to imagine any intelligent and experienced person being so colossally wrong about virtually everything”.
“In my opinion, Chairman Wheeler was never a big fan of the broadcasting industry and visa versa. The battles between his office and the NAB have become legendary. Although most of the friction was on the television side of the equation in terms of the reverse auction, repacking, the repeal of the UHF discount and the attribution of JSAs, there were also battles on the radio side. Wheeler’s enforcement bureau was seen as being soft on radio pirates and closed field offices, and he vigorously opposed opening a new FM translator window for AM stations, but ultimately caved. Chairman Wheeler expanded the online public file requirements to radio but failed to take any action on multiple ownership, especially the newspaper cross-ownership rule or the radio market sub-caps. On the other hand, he did push through some AM revitalization measures including the 250-mile modification window for AM stations to relocate FM translators. His administration also softened the FCC’s foreign ownership restrictions which could improve the flow of foreign capital into the domestic market. Overall, for his mixed impact on the radio industry, I would give him a “C-”.
Francisco R. Montero
Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, P.L.C.
“I would give him a D. He sat on the antiquated ownership rules, didn’t think it was the FCC’s job to push for the FM chip for even FEMA’s purposes and found very few concessions to make the broadcast industry more viable.”
“At such a crucial time within our industry, the FCC should be leading the way for us to face the challenges that lie ahead. Unfortunately, I don’t think that Chairman Wheeler has been proactive on behalf of broadcasters…certainly not as supportive as Commissioner Pai, not only for AM revitalization, but for RADIO. It will be very interesting to see how the new administration deals with the FCC and issues facing broadcasters.”
Big River Broadcasting
“While Chairman Wheeler was a successful businessman and lobbyist he was the wrong choice of President Obama to lead the FCC, a department that is supposed to be an independent agency of the United States Government. I would rate his performance as poor. He acted more like a politician than the Chairman of the FCC.
“As a lobbyist he worked for the cable and wireless industry a group who as Chairman he was responsible for regulating. His actions always seemed to have political motivation and direction and were often influenced by Washington insiders. Regulatory radio rules remain stagnant and out of date while new media industries around us continue to grow and thrive. Times have changed and we need an FCC that keeps pace with the latest trends and innovations. Let’s hope the direction of the new Commission is that of change and prosperity for our industry and they will work on items that help our industry compete in this new media world and not worry about the definition of broadband or high-speed Internet. Even Chairman Wheeler’s action of resigning on inauguration day is a political statement from a Chairman that is supposed to be independent of the Beltway theatrics.”
“Looking ahead, the FCC needs a chairman who focuses more on radio, and especially addressing the needs of AM radio. The rapid pace of our industry demands a more responsive Chairman and a commission that is more nimble.”
Southern California Broadcasters Association