New FCC chair could be tough on media

Former leader expects mergers to be affected

NEW YORK -- Former FCC chairman Dick Wiley said Friday that he anticipates the new FCC under expected leader Julius Genachowski to be tough on media mergers and acquisitions.

But he also expressed hope that the agency wouldn't pass stricter regulations in this area amid the recession.

"I'm hoping that the commission won't embark on new regulatory (endeavors)," he said in a conference call hosted by Credit Suisse analyst Spencer Wang. Instead, the FCC may want to put such efforts "on the sideline for a while until economic conditions improve."

Wiley is now a partner at law firm Wiley Rein Llp., where he and colleagues noted how tough the business is for many in the media space these days, he said.

Asked about Genachowski's likely agenda overall, he said the likely FCC chairman's interests will be in broadband, technology innovation and Net neutrality and also include "a desire to not have a lot more consolidation" in media. Wiley also lauded Genachowski's background for being exactly what is needed at the head of the FCC right now.

In the call, Wiley and colleagues also said there has been some chatter that Genachowski could boost diversity among FCC commissioners if one of his fellow Democratic commissioners agrees to move into another government role. One name that has been bandied about is that of Mignon Clyburn, they said. She serves on the Public Service Commission of South Carolina.

Asked about a possible delay of the deadline for the digital TV transition, as proposed by the team of President-elect Barack Obama, Wiley said data shows that consumer awareness of the transition is high, and the industry and government have done "a good job" getting the word out.

However, he agreed that the distribution of TV converter box coupons must be accelerated. A House of Representatives panel is weighing a pushback of the deadline to June 12.