The Senate on Monday approved, after months of delay, the nominations as new FCC Commissioners of Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel and Republican Ajit Pai. Once they are sworn in and assume their new jobs in the next few days, this will bring the FCC up to full strength with 5 seated Commissioners for the first time in a year. Rosenworcel comes from having worked for the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees FCC regulation. She previously worked as a legal assistant to former Commissioner Copps at the FCC. Pai has also worked on the Hill and at the FCC, so both have experience with issues before the Commission.
So what do these nominations mean for broadcasters? Probably, not much in the immediate term. With the two new Commissioners being added to the FCC, the balance of power remains in favor of the Democrats. But, as we have seen over the years, most Commission decisions aren’t decided on a partisan basis – in fact most are unanimous. In the recent past, there are a few decisions where the Commission has been somewhat divided, with Republican Robert McDowell tending to take a somewhat more deregulatory position, as in connection with the recent ruling on online public inspection files for TV stations. But party affiliation is not necessarily a guide to a Commissioner’s positions, as many of the proposals for broadcast re-regulation first arose during the Republican administration of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin (see, for instance, the proposals for localism regulation and the original proposal for an online public file adopted in 2007).