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Editorial: Commission’s Gloria days come to end

Sep 3, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Gloria Tristani made official last week what most observers had been expecting for some time when she announced that she will be leaving the Federal Communications Commission on Sept. 7, well before her term is scheduled to expire in 2003.
She will be sorely missed.
In her nearly four years at the agency, Ms. Tristani has been its most steadfast public-interest advocate. She has championed access to the digital revolution for all Americans, fighting to speed broadband deployment to rural areas and promoting Internet access for schools and libraries. She carried the banner for consumers in the battle against telephone company “slamming,” worked tirelessly in an uphill struggle to bring competition to the cable industry and spoke for families in their war against broadcast indecency and violence.
In a Washington environment where schmoozing with industry lobbyists-and in many cases, caving in to them-is the norm, Ms. Tristani resisted those temptations, sticking to her principles even when it meant swimming against the tide.
It was no secret that Ms. Tristani had grown frustrated with the situation at the FCC. As part of the agency’s Democratic minority under the Bush administration, she saw her role effectively reduced to that of chief dissenter in a series of pro-industry, anti-regulatory decisions.
Her efforts under the previous administration, with Democrat Bill Kennard presiding over the FCC, were only marginally more fruitful. That panel was continuously bogged down by Washington politics and held back by Mr. Kennard’s lackluster leadership.
The regulators who remain at the FCC and the new Democratic commissioner who replaces Ms. Tristani would do well to remember her legacy and to see to it that the voice of the public continues to be heard. Given Chairman Powell’s activist deregulatory agenda, it won’t be easy.
Free enterprise is essential to the media industry, but regulators should keep in mind that it will be bad for business in the long run if the industry is allowed to stray too far from its responsibility to serve the public.