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It’s Official: Clyburn Leaving Commission

Now four commissioners remain — three of them are Republicans

Following months of speculation, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat, has announced her plans to step down from the commission at today’s Federal Communications Commission meeting.

Last month, B&C’s John Eggerton reported that “Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has proposed FCC Enforcement Bureau official Geoffrey Starks to succeed Mignon Clyburn as Democratic FCC commissioner when she decides to exit — or when a new nominee speeds that process.” As of this afternoon, it’s unclear whether or not he will be nominated.

Clyburn also remained mum about what’s next on her agenda, although many have speculated about her political ambitions. She is the daughter of South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, a fellow Democrat. The elder Clyburn will be 78 years old in July but has not announced plans to retire.

Clyburn has served on the commission for eight years. She was nominated by Pres. Barack Obama in 2009 and was confirmed that same year. In 2013 she made history as the first woman to chair the commission, albeit in an acting capacity.

She has been energetic in her defense of Net Neutrality and media ownership diversity initiatives. However, Clyburn was less active in radio issues.

[Read RW’s 2017 interview with Clyburn.]

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai — a Republican with whom Clyburn frequently sparred — had this to say in a release about her pending departure: “I congratulate Commissioner Clyburn on her distinguished tenure at the FCC. She has been a tremendous leader and a committed public servant throughout her time here.”

Pai also noted the significance of her time at the FCC. “As the first woman to head the agency, she led skillfully through a transition and put her on stamp on the commission, including through her steadfast leadership in telehealth, media diversity and digital inclusion.”

He also acknowledged there differing viewpoints. “I have enjoyed working with her and, even when we have not seen eye-to-eye on policy, I have always held her candor and thoughtfulness in the highest regard. She’s been a wonderful colleague and friend. I wish her nothing but the best and sincerely thank her for her service.”

Fellow Commissioner Michael O’Rielly tweeted:

Clyburn’s lone female colleague on the commission and fellow Democrat Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel released a statement calling Clyburn “a dynamo” who “represents the best of public service.”

She said, “Commissioner Clyburn has been a forceful advocate for change, for equal opportunity, and for closing the digital divide. It was a privilege to support her history-making leadership as Acting Chairwoman. It has been an honor to work alongside her to put consumers first and bring connectivity to those at greatest risk of being left behind — urban, rural, and everywhere in between. I am proud to have worked together with her to support net neutrality and grateful to have been her partner in her unwavering work to remedy the grave injustice of exorbitant prison phone rates. As she departs this agency, she should know her legacy is intact because so many who work on communications policy will continue to be guided by her outstanding example. I consider myself among them.

Joining the chorus, NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith also reacted to the news in a statement released today. Smith said, “Mignon Clyburn has served the commission with distinction, dedication and humility over the past eight years. She has been a passionate voice on behalf of consumers and a champion of diversity in the media marketplace during her tenure. NAB and America’s broadcasters wish Commissioner Clyburn well on her future path.”