James H. Quello Biographical and Historical Information

Early Life

James Henry Quello (April 21,1914-January 24, 2010) was born in Larium, Michigan, a northern Italian copper mining colony. In the 1920’s, the Quello family relocated to Detroit, where Quello’s father opened a grocery store in Highland Park, later working for Ford Motor Company as a factory worker and foreman.  In a neighborhood dominated by the Klu Klux Klan, James H. Quello experienced discrimination and racial violence because of his Italian-American heritage. He describes his early years as where he “start[ed] becoming a strong believer in self-defense in school and in life.”[1] After prohibition was repealed, the Quello family returned to Larium, opening a thriving saloon across from the police station.

As a college student at Michigan State University, Quello served in the ROTC and pursued journalism with the intention of becoming a newspaperman. He worked multiple positions for MSU’s college newspaper, including columnist and editor, and served as a newscaster on WKAR; a 500-watt college radio station. He graduated with a Bachelors of Art from the College of Arts and Letters in 1935 and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree in 1977 from Michigan State University.[2] In 1975, he received an honorary Doctor of Public Service from Northern Michigan University.

WWII (1941-1945)

A World War II hero, James H. Quello served as a Lieutenant and Lieutenant Colonel, earning several commendations for his service. He survived amphibious landings in Africa, Sicily, Italy, and France, and assault crossings on the Rhine and Danube in Germany. In addition to serving as Lieutenant of the infantry, Quello was paid to write articles for service papers. At the summons of Lieutenant Colonel Sandlin, he witnessed the horrors of the Dachau concentration camp before it was deemed off limits. At the end of the war, Quello was assigned to Camp Blanding, Florida, to train an infantry battalion in preparation for Japan.

Broadcasting Career

In July 1945, James H. Quello began his position as Publicity Director for the Lone Ranger and Green Hornet at the WXYZ-AM Detroit station, becoming the personal liaison between Bing Crosby and the ABC radio network. After WXYZ-AM station was purchased by the ABC network, Quello took a position as General Manager at WJR-AM, the dominant 50,000-watt clear channel station. Later, he was promoted to Vice President, where his broadcast executive leadership was distinguished by an increase in WJR (FM)’s doubling power, the implementation of affirmative action policies, and the placement of J.P. McCarthy in a key drive-time spot, where he was the highest rated morning man for 28 years.[3] Under Quello’s leadership, WJR was awarded numerous awards and citations.

During his tenure, WJR implemented affirmative action policies; hiring the first black Disc Jockey, Bill Lane, in 1949. Quello was the architect of “complete range programming,” featuring minority and adult programming. WJR was the only station to feature a 16-piece orchestra and choir training program for high performing high school students, “Make Way for Youth.” Amongst the graduates were prominent black choral members Freda Payne and Ursula Walker. WJR served as the leader in coordinating with national news networks during Detroit’s 1967 rebellion, providing comprehensive local and national coverage. Quello also wrote for fourteen community newspapers, titled “Radiograms” by Jim Henry, and was a Detroit stringer for Variety magazine.

James H. Quello had extensive involvement in the Michigan Association of Broadcasting (MAB), where he served as president and government relations chairman. He was appointed by four different Mayors to serve as a member of the Detroit Housing and Urban Renewal Commission for a total of 21 years, where he advocated for open occupancy and low-cost housing for minorities. He also served as a trustee on the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund for 22 years, where he was appointed by four different Governors, and facilitated innovative initiatives. Quello’s broadcasting career provided a practical foundation for his career as an FCC Commissioner and Chairman (1993).

Federal Communications Commission

James H. Quello’s 24-year career as an FCC Commissioner, 1974-1998, was greatly influential, ushering in revolutionary technological changes and a global cultural shift. His communication and broadcasting policies brought new telecommunications options to the American public through the development of cable and satellite TV, high-definition digital broadcasts, and personal communications services. Quello’s regulatory philosophy was guided by a desire to create flexible policies to accommodate quickly changing technologies, as the world began to expand through economic and political initiatives into new territories, technologies, and cultures.

Known for the longest and shortest confirmation hearing, 8 days and 15 minutes, respectively, James H. Quello was first appointed as an FCC Commissioner in 1974 by President Richard Nixon. Despite Quello’s bipartisan support, his appointment was heavily contested by Ralph Nader, who viewed Quello as a pawn of the radio and broadcasting industry.[4] Throughout his career as an FCC Commissioner, James H. Quello advocated for equal opportunity, minority ownership, affirmative action policies, financial interests and syndication rules, free universal television, and deregulation, taking a strong position against sex and violence in television broadcasting.  He heavily pursued the finingof shock-jock Howard Stern for anti-indecency rule violations.

Commissioner Quello was a champion for public broadcasting; committed to free over-the-air broadcasting, deregulation, and limiting violence in television broadcasting.  He assisted with the modernization of broadcasting transmission systems, bringing HDTV into the modern age with minimal government oversight. A strong proponent of must-carry rules and retransmission consent, he believed these regulations would be just for broadcasters and viewers.[5] Commissioner Quello served as Chair of the TCAF committee, providing assistance to public broadcasting stations seeking financial stability.  In the final year of his career as an FCC Commissioner, James H. Quello worked on the 1996 Communications Act, enabling cross-ownership between telecommunications companies; which fostered marketplace competition and led to a concentration of media ownership.

As a supporter of freedom of speech and First Amendment rights, Commissioner Quello supported the deregulation of commercial limitations in television broadcasting (1981). He adamantly argued against the imposition of three hours of educational programming in children’s television programming, contending that educational programming regulations would impose on First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech, and quantitative regulations would be difficult to uphold in court. He later reversed his position in 1996, after outraged demands from congressmen and senators.

Affirmative Action

During his career as a Commissioner, the FCC initiated an affirmative action program; utilizing rigorous standards of equal opportunity employment to increase minority hiring practices and ownership in broadcasting. Licensees were required to understand the community they serve and make effort to recruit employees reflected in the community. In 1977, the Commission adopted affirmative action policies for the review guidelines for EEO license renewal, requiring an in-depth staff review for stations with six to ten full-time employees and no minority or female employees. In 1980, the Commission tightened the review policy to 50/25% for stations employing six to ten full-time employees, and 50/50 for stations with 11 or more full-time employees[6].

James H. Quello was a consistent advocate for the review of ownership rules. He was the first FCC commissioner to demonstrate support for minority ownership, advocating for affirmative financing policies in commercial broadcasting station ownership. Quello also pushed for distress sales to minorities at 75% appraisal value versus license revocation and tax certificates with tax breaks for minorities. Clear Channel Communications provided the first opportunity for minority ownership, as they were forced to divest due to ownership limitations. Commissioner Quello supported improvements to UHF broadcasting to facilitate the development of local public broadcasting initiatives and minority ownership.

Personal Communication Services

Considered the “Father” of Personal Communication Services (PCS), Quello’s initiative spurred the development of the cellular industry. Quello’s commission established the regulatory framework, developing the band plan and regulatory scheme for private land mobile devices. Quello’s staff advocated for the regulatory framework of the Low Earth Orbiting Satellites (LEOS), making mobile communications globally feasible. Commissioner Quello ushered in a vision of communication networks globally.

Chairman (1993)

In 1993, James H. Quello was appointed Acting Chairman by President Bill Clinton, during which the FCC Commission implemented the Cable Act; imposing rate regulations on cable television broadcasting and lifting long-standing restrictions on television networks from entering the market for reruns and syndication. Congress granted the FCC auction authority, raising over $20 billion for the U.S treasury. Additionally, the FCC cleared the way for new wireless phone and two-way data services, expanding opportunities for personal communications services globally.[7] His tenure as Acting Chairman was lauded as a period of transparency and collaboration.

Michigan State University

In 1998, James H. Quello developed the James H. and Mary B. Quello Center for Telecommunication Management and Law at Michigan State University, as a multi-disciplinary center within the Department of Media and Information. The Quello Center’s original mission was to support social research of changing communication technologies, industries, and consumer choices through rigorous interdisciplinary research initiatives, global professional opportunities to facilitate cross-disciplinary dialogues, participation in communication policy developments, and expertise and independent research to public and nonprofit institutions. This mission remains central to the Quello Center moving into the digital age. Quello played a major role in the development of the Quello Center, generating over 200 gifts for the Center by raising a general endowment that has grown to $5 million in 2017. James H. Quello died on January 24, 2010, at the age of 95, in his home in Alexandria, Virginia.


Recipient. Distinguished MSU Alumni Award, Michigan State University. May 8, 1998.


First Recipient. Lifetime Achievement Award, Industrial Telecommunications Association. October 7, 1997.

First Recipient. Walter Werner Award for Distinguished Contributions to International Communications Comity, Intelevent. Budapest, Hungary. October 1, 1997.

Recipient. “Citation of Appreciation” Award [framed] after AWRT vote at their annual convention, September 16, 1997.

Recipient. Good Scout Award, National Capital Area Council Boy Scouts of America. September 10, 1997.

Recipient. Lifetime Achievement Award, International Radio and Television Society Foundation, Inc. May 20, 1997.

Recipient. The Ellis Island Medal of Honor, May 4, 1997.

First Recipient. Distinguished Service Award [plaque], Celebration of Commissioner Quello’s 23rd Anniversary. April 30, 1997.

Recipient. Distinguished Service Award “for uncommon devotion to his country in peace and war.” Presented by Ted Turner, National Cable Television Association. March 19, 1997.

Recipient. Distinguished Service Award, The Association of Local Television Stations. January 11, 1997.


Honoree. Recognizing “many years of dedicated service to broadcasting” The John Bayliss Broadcast Foundation at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York, NY. October 30, 1996.

Inductee. The Museum of Broadcast Communications’ Radio Hall of Fame at the ChicagoCultural Center on October 27, 1996.

Honoree. “In recognition of his outstanding achievement and meaningful contributions to Michigan State University and the MSU community,” Michigan State University’s Alumni Club of Metropolitan Washington, DC, Washington, DC. September 11, 1996.


Inductee. Broadcasting/Cable Hall of Fame, New York, NY. November 6, 1995.

First Recipient. Milestone Award “for unprecedented support of young talent in communications law,” Institute for Communications at Catholic University School of Law. November 2, 1995.

First Recipient. Lifetime Honorary Chairman plaque and gavel, International Intelevent. Berlin, Germany. September 29, 1995.

Recipient. “Friends of Nebraska” Award [metal plaque in the shape of the state of Nebraska], Nebraska Association of Broadcasters. August 25, 1995.

Recipient. Official Scroll of the California Legislative Assembly Resolution [full page], Members Resolution No. 1240. July 5, 1995.

First Recipient. Distinguished Public Service Award, National Cable Television Association. May 7, 1995.

Recipient. Lifetime Achievement Award, The Eugene C. Bowler Foundation, Presented at the Annual PCIA Dinner by Chairman John Dingell. April 5, 1995.


Recipient. Distinguished Service Award, Broadcast Pioneers. December 2, 1994.

Recipient. Lifetime Achievement Award, Community Broadcaster Association. November 7, 1994.

Recipient. Jack Harris Founders Award, MSTV, “in recognition of his tireless and effective leadership spanning 20 years in the FCC ….” October 25, 1994.

Recipient. National Leadership in Communication Award, Coalition of Italo-American Association “for serving a role model for the entire Italian-American community.” New York, NY. September 16, 1994.

Recipient. First Amendment Award, Radio and Television News Directors Foundation. April 1994.

Recipient. 1994 Distinguished Service Award, National Association of Broadcasters. March 1994.

Recipient. Award of Honor, National Association of Broadcasters, “for Protecting the Technical Integrity of Radio and Television Service.” March 21, 1994.

Recipient. Chairman Award, National Religious Broadcasters. February 1, 1994.

Recipient. “President’s” Award, Alaska’s Broadcasting Association. January 14, 1994.

Recipient. Georgia Broadcasters Award, Broadcasters of America, “in deep gratitude for extraordinary service.” 1994.


Recipient. Detroit Adcraft Club’s Club Director’s Award “for outstanding career achievement.” 1993.

Recipient. NABER Chairman’s Award “for outstanding contributions to the advancement of the mobile communications industry.” 1993.

Recipient. Pennsylvania Association of Broadcaster’s Golden Eagle Ambassador Award [plaque]. 1993.

Recipient. Distinguished Service Award [plaque] from 50 state broadcasting presidents and the National Association of Broadcasters. 1993.

Recipient. Long Island Coalition for Fair Broadcasting’s plaque “presented to Interim Chairman James H. Quello, Conscientious Broadcaster, Forthright and Fair-Minded Regulator, Steadfast Champion of the Public Interest.” 1993.

Recipient. Distinguished Service plaque, Federal Communications Bar Association (FCBA), “for his interim chairmanship, lauded at a ceremony in Washington by senior, former FCC Chairmen – Newton Minow, Bill Henry, Dick Wiley, Charles Ferris, Mark Fowler, Dennis Patrick, and Al Sikes. 1993.

Recipient. Lifetime Achievement Award, Michigan Association of Broadcaster’s Annual Convention. 1993.


Recipient. Golden Bow Tie Plaque, Council of UHF Broadcasting, “for outspoken advocacy of UHF improvement with respect and gratitude.” 1990.


Recipient. Golden Eagle Leadership Award, Wireless Cable Association International’s international convention. 1989.


American Women in Radio and Television’s highest award, Silver Satellite Award, 1988 at their national convention.


Ohio Educational Television Stations’ prestigious “Obie” Award given annually for outstanding contributions to educational broadcasting. 1986.