Julius Genachowski Obama's Pick To Head FCC The president has named a new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates everything from cell phones to cable television to emergency communications to the Internet. Obama has known Genachowski since their student days at Harvard Law.

Julius Genachowski Obama's Pick To Head FCC

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

President Obama has named a new chair of the Federal Communications Commission. If confirmed he would be the man in charge of the country's television and radio airwaves, cell phones, cable TV, emergency communications and Internet. As NPR's Neda Ulaby reports, it's a job he may be ready for.

NEDA ULABY: It certainly did not hurt Julius Genachowski that he's been friends with Mr. Obama since they were student days at Harvard Law, or that he was one of the campaign's chief technological gurus.

Ms. GIGI SOHN (President, Public Knowledge): Julius essentially drafted Mr. Obama's technology and innovation plan.

ULABY: Gigi Sohn runs the advocacy group called Public Knowledge. She's delighted by Genachowski's nomination. In particular, she likes the plan Genachowski drafted during the campaign to improve the economy by investing in broadband - giving more people more access to a faster Internet.

Ms. SOHN: He also understands that broadband can help solve energy problems and environment problems and health care problems. A lot of people tend to kind of (unintelligible) silo(ph) technology as this other complicated thing, but what he clearly showed in drafting this technology innovation plan is that he sees it as part of a larger ecosystem of social and economic issues that Americans really care about.

ULABY: Julius Genachowski comes to these issues after years spent in both the public and private sectors. He was a senior executive at a major Internet company, earning him the goodwill of many pro-business and industry interests. Genachowski's public service includes clerking for two Supreme Court justices and working at the FCC during the Clinton Administration.

Mark Fowler led the agency under President Reagan.

Mr. MARK FOWLER (Former FCC Chairman): The new change can't come too quickly as far as I'm concerned.

ULABY: Fowler has yet to meet Julius Genachowski, but he says he's impressed by his education. And he predicts Genachowski will be an improvement.

Mr. FOWLER: This past FCC, I have to say, it has been a disaster. I think they have politicized the lobbying process so it is almost semi-corrupt, and I think that the new chairman needs to go in there with a broom and take out some of those people who have played favorites and given favors to their favorite lobbyists and get this business of the FCC back to doing what's best for the people.

ULABY: The former chairman, Kevin Martin, earned plenty of scorn for what critics called his preoccupation with dirty words. His FCC was even targeted by the Fox TV show "Family Guy."

(Soundbite of TV show, "Family Guy")

Mr. SETH MACFARLANE (As Brian Griffin): (Singing) They're as stuffy as the stuffiest of special interest groups.

Mr. SETH MACFARLANE (As Peter Griffin): (Singing) Make a joke about your bowels and they order in the troops.

Mr. SETH MACFARLANE (As Stewie Griffin): (Singing) Any baby with a brain could tell them everybody poops.

ULABY: Right now, Washington is brimming with bipartisan about an FCC under Julius Genachowski. So far…

Mr. MICHAEL POWELL (Former FCC Chairman): They always like you till you get the job - start doing the job.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ULABY: Former FCC commissioner and chairman Michael Powell took plenty of heat while serving under Presidents Clinton and Bush. Still, he says no job short of the presidency covers such an interesting range of issues.

Mr. POWELL: I've always maintained that with all the yelling and the noise and the screaming that sometimes go on the around the FCC, it's probably one of the very best jobs in the United States government. In the morning you can be working on issues related to children's television and in the afternoon you can be doing complex economics of telephone pricing systems.

ULABY: And in the evening pondering the nation's transition to digital television and dreaming perhaps of a national broadband policy.

Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Family Guy")

Mr. MACFARLANE (As Peter Griffin): Oh yeah. I know all about the FCC.

Mr. MACFARLANE (As Brian Griffin): (Singing) They're as stuffy as the stuffiest of special interest groups.

Mr. MACFARLANE (As Peter Griffin): (Singing) Make a joke about your bowels and they order in the troops.

Mr. MACFARLANE (As Stewie Griffin): (Singing) Any baby with a brain could tell them everybody poops.

Mr. MACFARLANE (As Brian, Peter and Stewie): (Singing) Take a tip, take a lesson, you'll never win by messing with the fellows at the freaking FCC.

WERTHEIMER: This is NPR News.

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