The independence of the US FCC appears somewhat compromised after a commissioner quit her job as a watchdog protecting the country from the anticompetitive antics of the big telcos to join, er, Comcast.
What is more alarming is that one of Meredith Attwell Baker’s last jobs for the FCC was to approve the Comcast/NBC Universal deal. This made her new job, which she takes up in June, all the more lucrative.
Baker’s new title at Comcast will be senior vice president of government affairs, which is basically a lobbying role.
The decision to allow Comcast to acquire ownership of NBC Universal in January was passed four to one. Commissioner Michael Copps, a democrat, was the only one who opposed the deal which was fairly contentious at the time.
Senator Al Franken pointed out, along with several consumer advocacy groups, that if the same company owns the content and the pipes that deliver that content, then consumers lose.
Comcast argued that punters would get more programming choices because of the merger.
Baker’s new job is possible because of the unique way that government departments work with industries in the Land of the Free. Basically big companies control politicians by giving them large amounts of cash for their election campaigns, and civil servants by giving them cushy jobs when when quit.
There are a few rules that they have to follow when they sign up for jobs with companies that they regulate.
Baker signed a pledge when she took the FCC that she would not be lobby anyone at the watchdog for two years after she cleans out her desk. Baker will not be able to lobby other political appointees at the FCC for as long as President Obama is in charge.
She is also banned for life from lobbying any executive branch agency, including the FCC, about the conditions that the FCC put on the Comcast/NBC deal. Since the deal is done and dusted thanks to Baker, that is not likely to be a problem.
Not surprisingly consumer groups are a little miffed at Baker’s career move. Craig Aaron, the president and chief executive of Free Press, told Cnet that it was the most blatant example of a so-called public servant cashing in at a company she is supposed to be regulating.
He said that it was no wonder the public is so nauseated by business as usual in Washington, “where the complete capture of government by industry barely raises any eyebrows.”
Looks like that revolution thing over tea has turned the former UK colony into a banana republic.