President Barack Obama announced Thursday that he plans to nominate Meredith Attwell Baker, a former Commerce Department official, to fill the open Republican slot on the Federal Communications Commission.
Most recently Baker led the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, or NTIA. This is the agency within the Commerce Department that was responsible for distributing the $40 coupons to consumers to convert their older analog TVs to receive digital TV signals. Baker came under fire earlier this year when the Commerce Department ran out of money for the coupons and millions of people were put on a waiting list.
Worries over the coupon program and a general feeling that too many people were unprepared for the switch to digital TV prompted Congress to push back the deadline to switch all the nation's high powered TV broadcasters from analog to digital from February to June.
With Baker's nomination to the FCC, President Obama has named his final nominee for the five member commission. Obama has already nominated Julius Genachowski to be FCC chairman. And he has also nominated Mignon Clyburn to fill a Democratic slot at the FCC. Clyburn is a member of South Carolina's public service commission. Commissioner Robert McDowell, who is a Republican, has been nominated for a second term on the commission.
For much of this year, the FCC has been operating with just three commissioners. Commissioner Michael Copps, a Democrat, is serving as acting chairman. After Genachowski is sworn in as chairman, Copps will step down from that position, but remain on the commission for at least another year. His term ends June 30, 2010. Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, a Democrat, plans to leave the commission after the new chairman takes his position. Adelstein has been nominated to head the Internet grant program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Genachowski and McDowell have already been approved by the Senate Commerce Committee and are awaiting full Senate confirmation. It's expected that Baker and Clyburn will go through the Senate approval process together.