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Constituency of One for FCC Chair

There might be some consumer groups who are members of the Christian-Taliban who celebrate Martin’s quest to “clean the smut out of the airways”, and protect our precious ears from dangerous words like fuck and shit, but these consumer groups don’t have the support of most of the nation.

 

His Royal Highness, Bushy, of course. There aren’t many government officials who can keep their jobs when they are unpopular with the Congress, with the citizenry, and with the industry being regulated.

Today, the Federal Communications Commission is set to ram through two measures likely to roil the media and telecommunications industries and deepen political dissatisfaction with the agency’s chairman.

Kevin Martin, a 41-year-old Republican, has already drawn heavy criticism with his determination to pass a rule making it easier for media companies to own both newspapers and television stations in the top 20 markets. The five-member commission is expected to pass that rule and another saying that no single cable company can serve more than 30% of the nation’s cable subscribers.
[snip]
In a highly partisan capital, Mr. Martin is unusual in that he is coming under attack by members of both parties and several industries. The cable restriction, for instance, has stoked the anger of an industry that expected an orthodox laissez-faire Republican as chairman, only to find an aggressive regulator.
[From Industry Seethes as FCC Sets Curbs]

Mr. Martin’s only government experience seems to be his work on the Shrub’s 2000 Presidential Campaign, and on Kenneth Star’s impeachment theater.

Mr. Martin worked as a telecommunications lawyer in private practice and briefly assisted independent counsel Kenneth Starr in 1997 during the Whitewater probe. Later, he left Washington for Austin, Texas, joining then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s presidential campaign. Mr. Martin’s wife, Cathie, whom he met at Harvard Law School, also worked on the campaign.

In 2001, the newly elected Mr. Bush appointed Mr. Martin as an FCC commissioner. His wife worked for Vice President Dick Cheney for several years before moving to the White House’s communications office.

Despite what Amy Schatz asserts in the article, there aren’t many consumer groups who think Mr. Martin’s tenure is worth celebration. There might be some consumer groups who are members of the Christian-Taliban who celebrate Martin’s quest to “clean the smut out of the airways”, and protect our precious ears from dangerous words like fuck and shit, but these consumer groups don’t have the support of most of the nation. The only group who would praise Mr. Martin on the record is Consumer Union’s Gene Kimmelman, for some reason:

Consumer groups are among those who offer kind words for Mr. Martin. “He’s been as accessible as any chairman in the past 25 years to consumer interests. He’s reached out for input,” says Gene Kimmelman, vice president for federal and international affairs at Consumers Union.

Is indecency on cable really what is important?

Soon Mr. Martin’s concerns about indecency on television began to steer him into conflict with the cable and broadcast-TV industries. His staff proposed record fines against broadcast networks for showing racy programming. Mr. Martin suggested that the FCC should fine broadcasters for each instance of a profanity used during a show, instead of just one fine per broadcast.

Mr. Martin pushed for a fine in cases of inadvertent broadcast of profanities, such as an incident involving U2 singer Bono during a live broadcast of the Golden Globes awards. This summer, a federal appeals court sided with the broadcasters and tossed out the agency’s decision.

Mr. Martin has suggested that indecency laws should apply to cable programming, prompting an outcry about free speech. Profit-spinning cable shows such as “The Sopranos” and “Real Sex” on HBO are rich in profanity and sexual images.

Note that Mr. Martin doesn’t have much support:

Intense lobbying in Congress, the FCC and the White House paid off, as a stream of lawmakers began calling the FCC and sending letters decrying Mr. Martin’s plan. Internally, several FCC commissioners complained about the data Mr. Martin’s staff relied on in the report. Ultimately, Mr. Martin was forced to drop his proposal.

“Because we didn’t agree to [a-la-carte pricing] early in his tenure, I believe, and I believe the evidence is overwhelming, that he embarked on a punitive regulatory regime on the industry,” says Mr. McSlarrow, the cable association president. He says private enterprise is “more likely to get it right than someone who’s never been in the business world.”

The media-ownership rules up for a vote today have also sparked a backlash, this time in Congress as legislators complain Mr. Martin is rushing the issue onto the agenda. Yesterday, a bipartisan group of 25 senators warned in a letter to Mr. Martin that they will pursue legislation to block his plan if the FCC adopts it today.

On Friday, former and current Democratic presidential hopefuls Sen. John Kerry and Sen. Barack Obama threatened to block FCC funding to implement the new media-ownership rules. Veteran Michigan congressman John Dingell, head of the House committee that oversees the FCC, said he is “rapidly losing confidence” and recently opened a broad investigation into Mr. Martin’s management of the agency.

Seems only the White House is Mr. Martin’s supporter. Remind you of anyone?
(Digg-enabled full access to the complete article here)

John Nichols of the Nation writes:

The Federal Communications Commission has, as expected, voted along party lines to approve the demand of Rupert Murdoch and other communications-industry moguls for a loosening of limits on media monopolies in American cities.

Now, the real fight begins.

There was never any doubt that FCC chair Kevin Martin, a Bush-Cheney administration appointee and acolyte, would lead the two other Republican members of the commission to a 3-2 endorsement of a move to begin dismantling the historic “newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership” ban which has long served as the only barrier to the buying by one powerful individual or corporation of newspapers, television and radio stations and other media outlets in a community.
[Click to read more FCC Votes for Monopoly, Congress Must Vote for Democracy]

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