Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News parent company Newscorp, has been asked by the Trump transition team to submit names for the open FCC chair position.
The rumor of Trump’s request to the Australian media mogul comes from an unnamed “well-placed source” cited by New York Magazine, which reported on Tuesday that “Trump has asked Murdoch to submit names for FCC Chairman,” adding that Murdoch aims to influence the Federal Communications Commission to use its muscle to halt the AT&T/Time Warner merger as it would help his competition.
Tom Wheeler, who was the FCC chairman under President Barack Obama, previously announced he would be stepping down from his role after Trump’s inauguration. If Murdoch is indeed providing names of candidates for the job to President-elect Trump, it’s very likely that net neutrality could be a thing of the past very soon.
As PCMag argued in 2014, Murdoch, who owns a global media conglomerate, easily has the capital to buy an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and then direct that ISP to promote content that aligns with his business and political interests, while throttling content that runs opposite of his interests.
Under Wheeler’s chairmanship, net neutrality — in which ISPs are required to provide all content at the same speeds to all internet users — was famously upheld, along with low-income access to broadband through government subsidies and additional privacy rules for broadband. Wheeler was also responsible for killing the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable. A Murdoch pick could reverse all of those decisions, and serve to enrich and expand his already enormous media empire.
The makeup of the five-member commission is dictated by presidential appointments. Existing FCC rules stipulate that one party can’t be represented by more than three of the five members. The FCC already has a Republican majority, which will be strengthened after the departure of Obama appointee Jessica Rosenworsel.
Zach Cartwright is an activist and author from Richmond, Virginia. He enjoys writing about politics, government, and the media. Follow his work on the Public Banking Institute blog.