On April 7, Henry Geller passed away at the age of 96. He championed the public interest during his lengthy career in telecommunications policy, from his post as General Counsel at the Federal Communications Commission to his time as the first Administrator at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. He also served at Duke University’s Washington Center for Public Policy Research.
The following may be attributed to Public Knowledge President Chris Lewis on behalf of Public Knowledge:
“Henry Geller was both a foundational figure in telecommunications law and an innovative thinker on how changes in technology could serve the public interest. As General Counsel of the FCC, Geller provided the legal rationale for the broadcast Equal Employment Opportunity rules and for implementation of many of the reforms designed to promote localism and broadcast diversity. Geller was also a champion of children, providing the FCC with the legal rationale for banning broadcast cigarette advertising and as an advocate for passage and implementation of the Children’s Television Act of 1990. As the first Assistant Secretary for the National Telecommunications Administration, Geller set a precedent for advocating bold policies to advance the public interest. For example, more than a decade before Congress authorized spectrum auctions, Geller advocated that the FCC should assign licenses by auction and that Congress should use the revenue to fund educational television content.
“But Henry did not limit his advocacy to legacy media. Up to the last years of his life, Henry Geller continued to advocate for how broadband and new technologies should be used to enrich the lives and education of children, and should provide a voice for traditionally marginalized communities.”
The following may be attributed to Al Kramer, Senior Fellow at Public Knowledge:
“Many in the public interest community will not hesitate to recount Henry Geller’s forward-looking views, advocacy efforts, or exemplary public service. But there is yet one more debt of gratitude that the public interest movement owes to Henry: its very existence.
“From the moment he left the FCC in 1969, Henry served as an inspiration to what was then a small, struggling public interest community with less than a handful of advocates working to make the then-dominant broadcast media respond to — and employ — the disenfranchised, including minorities and women. Henry cheered them on as both a mentor and personal resource, discussing strategy and teaching them how to move the needle in bureaucracy to best serve the public good.
“He also persuaded the philanthropic community to invest in society by funding important public interest initiatives. Eventually, that handful of advocates grew into the sophisticated public interest movement we know today, addressing the full range of communications technologies. Henry achieved this while continuing his own tireless advocacy for public interest goals.
“My hope is that no one in the public interest community should ever have to ask, ‘Who’s Henry Geller?’”
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