Tom Wheeler

FCC nominee Tom Wheeler appears before the Senate Commerce Committee. (Bloomberg / June 18, 2013)

Tom Wheeler, a veteran lobbyist nominated last month to become chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said he is ready to make the transition from Washington insider to public servant.

"My client will be the American public," Wheeler told the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday afternoon during his confirmation hearing.

A former head of the cable television and the cellular telephone trade associations, Wheeler said the FCC needs to be aggressive in "promoting and protecting competition."

As most nominees do during confirmation hearings, Wheeler tried to steer clear of too many specifics while questioned.

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For example, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) tried to get Wheeler to give his thoughts on media consolidation in the wake of Gannett's announced acquisition of Belo Corp. last week.

"I understand the seriousness of this issue and have long been an advocate of diversity of voices," Wheeler said. 

However, when Cantwell pressed as to whether that meant he would scrutinize such mergers and would resist further deregulation that would encourage more consolidation, Wheeler bobbed and weaved much to the Senator's frustration.

“I am specifically trying not to be specific,” he said. 

Wheeler was also asked about indecent content on broadcast television. Although he noted that as a grandfather he sees stuff that makes him "grit my teeth," he also did not sound like someone ready to start playing content cop.

Instead he suggested that the industry can be encouraged to clean itself up a little.

"Can't we do better?" he asked.

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