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Former FCC Official Roy Stewart Dies

Had been head of then-Mass Media Bureau

The Tennessee Association of Broadcasters honored Roy Stewart of the FCC, left, in 2009. He was with Paul Tinkle of Thunderbolt Broadcasting.

Roy Stewart, 78, former chief of the FCC’s then-Mass Media Bureau and subsequently of the Office of Broadcast License Policy, died April 10 at Fairfax Hospital, Fairfax, Va., after what was described as a brief illness.

Stewart joined the FCC in 1965, became head of the Mass Media Bureau in 1989, then moved to the license policy office before retiring in 2009.

Former FCC chairman Dick Wiley called Stewart “the finest regulatory official I ever worked with,” both inside and outside the FCC. Wiley became partner in mega-communications firm Wiley Rein after leaving the commission, so dealt with Stewart in that capacity as well.

Wiley called Stewart “tremendously knowledgeable and very responsive.” Wiley said when, as chairman, he faced a “huge backlog” of petitions to deny, he promoted Stewart to what was then the Transfer Branch to try and clean them up. “And he did it,” said Wiley. “He was highly regarded by everyone who dealt with him and was a terrific government official and public servant.”

“Roy, as gruff as he tried to be, really did define the ‘accessible regulator,’“ said Jerry Fritz, former general counsel for Allbritton Communications and now executive VP for ONE Media. “He had an uncanny understanding of what was politically possible and had an open ear to be persuaded.”

Back in 2001, even though it could mean losing his job — Stewart defended then chairman Michael Powell’s plan to combine the Mass Media and Cable Services bureaus into a single Media Bureau — which the FCC did — saying, somewhat prophetically, that the move was not “anti-broadcaster” but rather an effort to push broadcasters to move their businesses into the digital age.

Stewart is survived by his wife, Patricia Zimmer Stewart; daughters Teresa and Cristina, and a granddaughter, Presley Julio.

There will be a visitation from noon to 2 p.m. on Monday, April 17, at Fairfax Memorial Funeral Home at 9902 Braddock Road, in Fairfax.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a contribution to a favorite charity.