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Bush Chooses Alfred Sikes to Head FCC

June 29, 1989|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Bush on Wednesday tapped Alfred C. Sikes, a Commerce Department official who is a former broadcaster from Missouri, to become the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

If confirmed by the Senate, Sikes would succeed Dennis R. Patrick, who announced in April his intention to resign pending confirmation of his successor.

The brief White House announcement that Bush intended to nominate Sikes, who is considered a moderate on regulatory issues, ended weeks of speculation that the president would select the 49-year-old head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Sikes, who now is an assistant secretary of commerce, would fill the seat vacated in December, 1987, by Mimi Weyforth Dawson. Sikes' appointment would be for five years, beginning July 1, 1988, the White House said.

Two weeks ago, Bush nominated Washington attorney Sherrie P. Marshall and Illinois Commerce Commission member Andrew C. Barrett to fill two other vacancies at the five-member FCC.

The term of Commissioner Patricia Diaz Dennis, a Democrat, expires Friday, and her situation is uncertain, although she has indicated willingness to stay on.

The term of the commission's other Democrat, James H. Quello, expires in 1991, when he has said he will retire.

Sikes reportedly won out over Marshall for the chairman's post because he was considered more likely to be confirmed in the Senate. Marshall is a former Patrick aide who aided the White House earlier this year in the unsuccessful effort to confirm former Sen. John Tower as secretary of defense.

Sikes was also being pushed for the job by Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., a longtime friend and member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that oversees the FCC.

Danforth, through a spokesman, described Sikes as "practical, open and well-regarded in Congress. . . . He will be confirmed."

American Telephone & Telegraph Co. said the selection of Sikes was "a good one."

Sikes' nomination had been expected to occur with that of Marshall and Barrett. When his name was not offered June 16, there was speculation that the White House was irked by an interview appearing in the New York Times that morning in which Sikes said he expected to be tapped as chairman and discussed his regulatory views.

He told the newspaper that he may differ philosophically with Patrick, whose anti-regulatory stance during his two years as chairman caused numerous clashes with Congress.

"There are things that I might emphasize that he might have preferred not to emphasize," Sikes was quoted as saying.

Sikes told FCC Week, an industry newsletter, last week: "I would describe myself as a flexible and moderate regulator. I don't believe in regulation for regulation's sake."

Sikes' office said he was not available for comment Wednesday, but in a statement he said he was honored to be asked to lead the FCC "during an especially challenging period."

He said that today, when "communications technologies and services offer so much, the government's potential to aid or obstruct progress has never been greater. Yet government is often slow to act and dynamic developments do not necessarily spur a dynamic government response."

As head of NTIA since 1986, Sikes has helped formulate government policy on telecommunications issues, including governmental involvement in high-definition television, which is expected to be a major business in the 1990s.

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