Jonathan Cody

Aug 2, 2004  •  Post A Comment

So who the heck has been getting Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell so hot recently for speeding up the broadcast industry transition to digital television?

A significant part of the credit goes to Jonathan Cody.

As the chairman’s legal adviser, Mr. Cody has Mr. Powell’s ear on a full range of regulatory issues critical to the media industries, both for shaping his votes on policy matters and for helping him draft speeches to ventilate his ideas.

Not bad for a 29-year-old in only his second gig out of law school.

“I just naturally had the same type of philosophy [as Chairman Powell],” Mr. Cody said. “Market-based philosophies are generally best.”

No one could be more surprised than Mr. Cody that he’s come so far so fast. By his own account, he originally went to college at Alfred University to play lacrosse, not study-after growing up on Long Island on a steady diet of high school sports and weekends in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium.

“I wasn’t really interested in school,” he said.

But he said he opted for law school after graduating from college, in part because when he was a kid people predicted that he was destined to become a lawyer “because I liked to argue.”

Mr. Cody said he decided to go to Catholic University’s law school in Washington because it had a communications program-a field that appealed to him and was booming.

While he was still a student, he got his first big break: a 1999 internship with Mr. Powell, who at the time was a commissioner at the FCC.

“I winded up hooking up with Michael, and that’s where the whole thing started,” Mr. Cody said. “I guess I impressed him.”

Mr. Cody’s second big break came Jan. 22, 2001, when President Bush promoted Mr. Powell to the agency’s chairmanship.

Within six months Mr. Cody was back working for Mr. Powell at the FCC, after less than a year as an associate at the Washington law firm Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo.

“Unofficially, I was like a deputy chief of staff,” Mr. Cody said. “[I did] everything from Big Think to minute legal details.”

Last December Mr. Powell officially designated Mr. Cody as his legal assistant, which includes serving as the chairman’s liaison or first line of defense to media industry lobbyists.

“He’s a very talented legal adviser who is wise beyond his years in managing agenda items,” said Dan Brenner, senior VP for regulatory policy at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

“Jonathan is always willing to meet with us and consider thoughtfully what we have to say,” added Cheryl Leanza, deputy director of the activist Media Access Project.

With characteristic candor, Mr. Cody said that part of the appeal of his FCC job is the exposure it offers. He also said he hopes it serves as a “stepping stone” for something bigger in the industry.

“Something in sports would be personally perfect,” said Mr. Cody, who is still a big fan of his hometown teams: the Yankees, Jets, Knicks and Islanders. “Whether that’s a channel, a team or a league-it could be any of those.”