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Two High-Level FCCers Head for Departure Gate

Genachowski remains mum on future plans

It was a day of announced departures at the FCC, and all eyes still await a word on the chairman’s plans.

FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell announced his plans to leave the agency “in a few weeks.” No further plans were divulged, except his intention to take his family “on a much-needed vacation starting this weekend.”

The Republican has been at the commission for nearly seven years and that makes him the longest-serving member of the current commission make-up.

NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith wished him well, noting that McDowell’s “good humor and grace have been matched only by his ardent support for fair media ownership rules and full-throated support for a vibrant First Amendment.”

FCC watchers believe McDowell’s planned exit paves the way for Chairman Julius Genachowski to soon leave, perhaps as early as right after his NAB Show appearance. The Washington Post recently reported the administration is vetting other potential candidates for Genachowski’s slot.

The last of Genachowski’s original staffers is leaving as well. Sherrese Smith, chief counsel and the chairman’s senior legal advisor, announced she’s exiting as well after four years at the agency. A spokesman for the chairman told Radio World Smith had not announced her future plans.

The exit of a commissioner’s staffers is usually a sign that that person too, to leave the agency.

Asked about his future plans at the news conference after today’s open commission meeting, Genachowski said he had nothing new to report. “As for me, the question has been asked and answered. I have nothing to report and nothing to announce.”

Such change at the top usually isn’t good for the industries the commission regulates. While the bulk of the work is actually conducted by FCC staffers, they still do need the actual commissioners to sign off on big-ticket items.

McDowell’s departure would leave one Republican at the helm of the agency; Ajit Pai.