On Monday night, the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post reported that President-elect Barack Obama will nominate his longtime friend and Harvard Law classmate Julius Genachowski to head the Federal Communications Commission. The new chairman is one of the chief architects of the online campaign that proved essential to Obama's victory.
With an impressive business resume and low-key public profile, Genachowski anchored the drafting of Obama's comprehensive media policy agenda that promotes diversified media ownership and fast, affordable, neutral Internet connections. His high-tech background, progressive platform and experience as senior legal council at the FCC under President Clinton make it likely that he will be a strong advocate for the public interest on myriad crucial issues.
The FCC is poised to decide on a host of media policies that will have a profound impact on our media experience. Will Internet service providers be allowed to eliminate Net Neutrality and censor content? Will the airwaves be opened up to new wireless service providers that make high-speed Internet more ubiquitous and affordable? Will the largest media companies be allowed to further consolidate ownership, homogenize content and crowd out diversity? Will the US continue the slide from 4th to 22nd amongst developed nations in Internet speed and adoption?
If you've ever been disappointed or disgusted with corporate, lapdog journalism; if you've ever been angered by your sky-high cable bills; with 100 channels but nothing on; or wanted to pull your hair out because of lousy, expensive cell phone service, then these questions couldn't be more important. Bad media policy-making is the reason we have lousy media, and good media policy is how we're going to fix it. It is the way we will get affordable, neutral Internet into every home that is so fast that every Web site can be a TV network. It is how you will get cable service that doesn't require a second mortgage.
Good policy-making is how we can get hard-hitting, critical journalism in the 21st century that investigates what is happening, rather than rehashing what happened (think Iraq and the financial crisis). It is how we will -- while newspapers continue their financial free fall -- foster the kind of media that holds government and corporations accountable. It is how we ensure that all people, rich and poor, urban and rural, will have an on-ramp to the information superhighway.
That's the kind of media that people want. It's the kind of media that President-elect Obama champions, the kind our struggling nation desperately needs. And by all indications, it's the kind of media that the incoming FCC chairman is committed to delivering. But as they say, the proof is in the pudding, and now all eyes are on a 46-year old named Julius Genachowski.