Tuesday, March 15, 2011

DC's revolving door: former FCC chair, Michael Powell, now the new president of cable TV trade association

Finished with serving the interests of the broadcasters and cable TV industries as head of the FCC under George Bush, Michael Powell is being rewarded by being named the new president and chief executive officer of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.
“Michael Powell is one of the most well respected and influential visionaries in all of telecommunications, and we’re so proud to have him join the cable team,” Patrick J. Esser, Chair of the NCTA Board of Directors and President, Cox Communications, said in the association's press release. “Michael’s exemplary record of leadership, deep commitment to public service, and vast insight into public policy make him an ideal fit to lead our industry in Washington, D.C., as we address the regulatory challenges that lie ahead and continue to help policy makers understand cable’s commitment to jobs, investment, and innovation.”

They love the guy, make no mistake about it. And they loved him when he was head of the FCC as Powell worked hard to loosen media ownership rules and fought against net neutrality.

So what happened to the other guy, the guy who was the head of the NCTA. He, Kyle McSlarrow, starts his new job as president of Comcast starting in April.

Responding to the naming of Powell, Craig Aaron, managing director of Free Press, a nonprofit organization working to reform the media, made the following statement:

If you wonder why common sense, public interest policies never see the light of day in Washington, look no further than the furiously spinning revolving door between industry and the FCC.

Former Chairman Michael Powell is the natural choice to lead the nation's most powerful cable lobby, having looked out for the interests of companies like Comcast and Time Warner during his tenure at the Commission and having already served as a figurehead for the industry front group Broadband for America.

During his time as a public servant, Chairman Powell once dismissed the notion of a digital divide as no different from the Mercedes divide that afflicted him -- after all, he said, not everyone who wants a Mercedes can have one.

Thanks in no small part to the policies he pursued at the FCC and to the cable lobby's unyielding fight against any real competition in the broadband market, the digital divide is still with us. But today we can finally say, at least in Michael Powell's case, that the Mercedes divide is closing.