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Indybay Feature
Bush Picks FCC's Kevin Martin to Be Chairman
by repost
Wednesday Mar 16th, 2005 8:00 PM
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush on Wednesday promoted Kevin Martin to head the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, where he has been a commissioner since 2001.
Martin, 38, replaces departing FCC Chairman Michael Powell, a fellow Republican who clashed with Martin over deregulating local telephone network sharing rules and relaxing media ownership limits.

"I look forward to working with the administration, Congress, my colleagues, and the FCC's talented staff to ensure that American consumers continue to enjoy the benefits of the best communications system in the world," Martin said in a statement.

Martin's elevation, announced in a White House statement, to the top FCC post does not require Senate confirmation.

Before joining the agency, he was a lawyer for Bush's 2000 presidential bid and an economic adviser at the White House.

He will face numerous tough issues, including whether to approve big telephone mergers, deciding what regulations apply to new Internet-based communications services and how to complete the transition to digital TV.

The FCC must also resolve media ownership limits a federal appeals court has put on hold. Martin also wanted to go further than Powell to relax media ownership limits, seeking to eliminate the ban on cross-ownership of newspapers, television stations and radio outlets in a single market.

Powell plans to leave the agency on Thursday and Republican Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy also plans to depart soon, opening up two slots on the five-member panel.

It was not immediately clear whom Bush would nominate to replace them, though industry sources expected him to name the former head of the Texas Public Utility Commission, Rebecca Klein, and Earl Comstock, a former aide to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens.

The Senate would have to approve those nominations.

"Kevin's promotion will now create a vacancy on the Commission and it is my continued hope and recommendation that Earl Comstock be named to fill the now vacant seat," Stevens said in a statement.

PAST CLASHES

Big local telephone carriers, who often battled with Martin, praised his appointment while three of the four television networks that have tangled with the FCC over record fines for violating decency standards declined comment.

"He is completely on top of all the issues and has been very fair and balanced in his approach," said Preston Padden, a lobbyist for Walt Disney Co., which owns the ABC network. The FCC recently ruled ABC's showing of "Saving Private Ryan" was not indecent despite extensive profanity.

Martin has pressed the agency to toughen its stance against broadcasters by issuing fines for each utterance. One consumer advocate argued Martin would lead to more content regulation.

"They have succeeded in establishing a new 'litmus' test for the FCC chair -- someone who will be at the forefront of monitoring programing," said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

Martin battled Powell in 2003 over easing local telephone network sharing rules, bucking the chairman and voting with the Democrats to preserve sharing requirements, a move that angered the big local telephone carriers.

Those rules eventually were struck down by a federal appeals court and Martin voted last December with Powell to ease the requirements.

http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=politicsNews&storyID=7925081
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