- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 2, 2005

It appears President Bush is preparing to fill openings for two Republicans on the Federal Communications Commission. The question is, when will he do it?

Richard Russell, associate director of the president’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Deborah Taylor Tate, a Tennessee Regulatory Authority director, are the most likely candidates for the job, according to a report last week from Blair Levin, an analyst for Baltimore financial services firm Legg Mason Inc.

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans has reported that Suzanne Haik Terrell — a Republican who lost a bid three years ago to unseat Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat — has interviewed for one of the FCC openings, too.

Meanwhile, MediaChannel.org, a nonprofit watchdog group, has identified three other candidates, including Howard Waltzman, chief counsel for the House Energy and Commerce telecommunications and the Internet subcommittee.

The other candidates, according to MediaChannel, are Becky Armendariz Klein, former chairwoman of the Texas Public Utilities Commission, and Mike Meece, the White House’s deputy director of public liaison.

Deciding who to pick may be easier for the administration than deciding when to pick.

It is August, after all. If the president announces his choices this month, bored reporters probably will have plenty of time to scrutinize the records of the nominees. The Senate hearings on Mr. Bush’s big nominee of the summer — Supreme Court pick John G. Roberts Jr. — won’t begin until Sept. 6.

And just because the president is headed for vacation doesn’t mean he can’t announce the nominations from his Crawford, Texas, ranch.

The nation’s big media companies would prefer that the president move sooner rather than later. The industry is eager for the agency to proceed with its latest attempt to relax the rules that prevent media conglomerates from growing bigger.

By law, a president’s party controls a majority of the five seats on the FCC. The panel is now split evenly: Chairman Kevin J. Martin and Kathleen Q. Abernathy are Republicans; Michael J. Copps and Jonathan S. Adelstein are Democrats.

One vacancy is for Mr. Martin’s old slot, which opened in March when the president tapped him to succeed Michael K. Powell as chairman.

The other opening is for Ms. Abernathy’s post; her term expired last year, but she has been permitted to stay through the end of this congressional term.

Technically, there is a third opening: Mr. Copps’ term expired in June, but he is widely expected to be renominated.

Last month, the FCC was scheduled to consider new media ownership rules, but the item was yanked off the agenda at the last minute, apparently because the panel was deadlocked along party lines over whether to approve them.

The FCC voted 3 to 2 along party lines to loosen the ownership rules in 2003. A federal court later rejected the new regulations, sending them back to the agency for a revision.

The media ownership rules do not appear on the agenda for the FCC’s next meeting, scheduled for tomorrow.

The administration, which supported the relaxed ownership rules, is expected to choose Republicans who will side with Mr. Martin.

Meanwhile, the candidates for the FCC openings are staying mum. Some declined comment, while others didn’t return telephone calls.

• Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139 or send e-mail to cbaker@washingtontimes.com.

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