Senate still needs to confirm Genachowski

Long-serving FCC commissioner Michael Copps has been tapped by President Obama to serve as interim chairman of the commission until the Senate confirms his pick for the post, Julius Genachowski.

The interim appointment of Copps, who is one of two Democrats on the five-member panel, had been expected. It’s still unclear when the Senate Commerce Committee will sked its confirmation hearing for Genachowski, a longtime friend of the president and a key adviser to Obama’s presidential campaign (Daily Variety, Jan. 14).

One big issue Copps will likely have to address in his temporary capacity is the fate of the planned transition to digital broadcasting on Feb. 17. Efforts to delay the transition until June 12 are gaining steam in Congress after Obama administration officials called for the delay earlier this month (Daily Variety, Jan. 19).

On Thursday, incoming Commerce Committee chair Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) introduced a revised bill that would delay the transition and designate more coin for federal programs to educate consumers and help them pay for the converter boxes required to enable older TV sets to work after the switch.

Some key Republicans oppose the delay on the grounds that it would further confuse consumers and derail plans for public-safety use, by firefighters and others, of the old analog spectrum that broadcasters will no longer utilize for their signals.

The new Rockefeller bill, a revision of a bill he circulated last week, addresses some of those concerns and gives broadcasters the option of making the switch before June 12.

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