FCC nom calls views ‘middle-of-the-road’

Tristani in profile

WASHINGTON — The Clinton administration’s latest pick for FCC commissioner, Gloria Tristani, is “probably a middle-of-the-roader” when it comes to the First Amendment, but she claims no pre-conceived notions when it comes to television regulation.

Tristani, who currently holds an elected post on the New Mexico Public Utility Commission, spends her time regulating the telephone and insurance industries, but she already is boning up on issues in front of the Federal Communications Commission, including the pending decision as to whether the new TV content code qualifies as “acceptable.”

When it comes to regulating content on the Internet, Tristani says the Supreme Court did the right thing when it struck down the Communications Decency Act. “I think the Supreme Court had no other legitimate way to decide it,” Tristani told Daily Variety on Friday.

Sources say Tristani is a tough negotiator who generally supports efforts to open up the local telephone market. Good news

That’s good news for cable companies who have invested billions of dollars in fiber-optic networks with the goal of competing in the local telephone business.

The cable industry’s efforts recently were dealt a setback when a federal court in Kansas ruled that the FCC had exceeded its authority when it wrote regulations aimed at breaking up the local telephone monopoly.

The Clinton administration made an effort to reach outside of the Beltway when it tapped Tristani, but the New Mexico official has solid political contacts. Her grandfather, Dennis Chavez, served in Congress for 30 years. As recently as May, Tristani was publicly contemplating a run for governor of New Mexico. Tristani also enjoys support from Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and United Nations Ambassador Bill Richardson, who is a former New Mexico congressman. Tristani, who is Hispanic, received the endorsement Friday of civil rights advocate Jesse Jackson.

She currently is planning her first trip to Washington to solicit political support for the FCC post, possibly as early as this week.

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