FCC’s McDowell To Leave ‘In A Few Weeks’

Republican commissioner Robert McDowell, who has served since 2006, announced today that he is leaving the FCC. He said that he has no plans “other than to take my family on a much-needed vacation starting this weekend.”

FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, one of the agency’s two Republicans, announced today that he is planning to step down “in a few weeks” as commissioner.

In brief remarks after the agency’s regular business meeting, McDowell, who has been serving as an FCC commissioner for almost seven years, said he planned to discuss his plans with the agency’s ethics officer to ensure that his departure was in full compliance with the letter and spirit of the agency’s ethics rules.

“Beyond that, I have absolutely no plans other than to take my family on a much-needed vacation starting this weekend,” McDowell said.

McDowell was first appointed to the FCC by President George W. Bush and unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2006. When he was reappointed to the Commission on June 2, 2009, Commissioner McDowell became the first Republican to be appointed to an independent agency by President Barack Obama. He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on June 25, 2009.

In a news conference following the meeting, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who has long been rumored to be considering leaving the commission, was asked about his plans. “There is no news to report and I have nothing to announce,” he said.

Following, McDowell’s announcement, NAB President-CEO Gordon Smith said in a statement: “Robert McDowell has been a remarkably gifted public servant during his seven-year tenure at the FCC. His good humor and grace have been matched only by his ardent support for fair media ownership rules and full-throated support for a vibrant First Amendment. Commissioner McDowell will succeed in whatever path he chooses, and NAB wishes him well.”


Julie Kearney, the Consumer Electronics Association’s VP of regulatory affairs, said: “Commissioner McDowell drills down on issues and asks difficult questions, he points out the elephant in the room, and he makes all of us think and work harder to ensure a rational result. He also makes us laugh with his fantastic sense of humor.”

Free Press President-CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement: “We congratulate Commissioner McDowell on his decision to leave the FCC. As he considers his next move, we hope he will reject the revolving door and resist becoming another FCC leader who exploits his public service to cash in at the companies he was supposed to regulate.”

American Cable Association President- CEO Matthew M. Polka issued the following statement: “ACA salutes Commissioner McDowell of the Federal Communications Commission on his distinguished career at the agency, where he demonstrated an impressive mastery of the complicated regulatory framework that governs the communications industry, including independent cable operators. ACA always regarded Commissioner McDowell as an honest broker who searched for the right answer based on the law, the facts and the public interest. Commissioner McDowell was a model public servant noted for his sharp mind, quick wit, and generous spirit.”

Parents Television Council President Tim Winter said of the news: “We commend Commissioner McDowell for his service to the FCC for the past six years. His voice and expertise have been invaluable on a number of key issues before the commission, particularly the FCC’s lethargic pace of enforcement of broadcast decency law.”

Immediately prior to joining the FCC, McDowell was SVP for the Competitive Telecommunications Association (CompTel), an association representing competitive facilities-based telecommunications service providers and their supplier partners. There he had responsibilities involving advocacy efforts before Congress, the White House and executive agencies.

Prior to joining CompTel in February 1999, McDowell served as the executive vice president and general counsel of America’s Carriers Telecommunications Association (ACTA), which merged with CompTel at that time.

McDowell was graduated cum laude from Duke University in 1985. After serving as chief legislative aide to a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, he attended the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary. Upon his graduation from law school, McDowell joined the Washington, D.C., office of the national law firm of Arter & Hadden.

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Ellen Samrock says:

March 20, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Commissioner McDowell was one of only two voices within the entire FCC who spoke up in support of broadcasters. While it’s too soon to know who will replace him, I get the sense that the voices for broadcasting will be getting fainter and fainter. Sad.