Kevin Martin Picked to Helm FCC

Gretchen Gallen
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following Michael Powell's contentious term as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, President Bush has handpicked socially conservative Republican Kevin Martin as his replacement, a move many political analysts are saying could mean even more hard line indecency enforcement of the media.

Martin comes to the FCC after working on Bush's first presidential campaign as part of the Bush-Cheney transition team. Prior to his appointment as chairman, he was nominated in 2001 as a commissioner on the four-member FCC panel, and according to reports, his perspectives on media regulation often clashed with Powell's.

Martin's wife serves as Bush's special assistant on economic policy and formerly served under Vice President Dick Cheney.

“I am deeply honored to have been designated as the next Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and I thank President Bush for this distinct privilege," Martin said in a statement. "I thank Chairman Powell for his excellent stewardship of this agency, and I look forward to continuing his efforts in bringing the communications industry into the 21st Century.”

The new FCC chairman has been widely hailed by socially conservative groups like Concerned Women for America, who lauded Martin's appointed as a major step toward stronger enforcement of the FCC’s indecency standards

“He has been a champion of cleaning up the filth in broadcasting and being chairman will only further posture him to do just that," Jan LaRue, CWA’s chief counsel, said in a statement. "We have repeatedly urged our 500,000 constituents to flood the White House with calls urging the president to choose Kevin Martin for this essential role.”

In a similar call to arms, the Parents Television Council waged a vigorous lobbying campaign to get Martin in the FCC hot seat, and the Family Research Council launched a massive email campaign to encourage supporters to back Martin's appointment.

Martin is said to share a similar agenda for stricter indecency regulation with FCC Democrat Michael Copps, who made Martin's appointment official.

In commenting on the FCC's "Seven Dirty Words" indecency regulation for broadcast media at the 21st Annual Institute on Telecommunications Policy & Regulation summit in 2003, Martin expressed concern over the inappropriateness of today’s programming on television and radio.

U.S. law bars radio stations and television stations from airing references to sexual and excretory functions between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. The rules do not currently apply to websites, cable and satellite channels or satellite radio.

"I am concerned that the Commission is not doing all it should in this area," Martin said. "We may be interpreting the statute too narrowly. We also may need to enforce our rules more stringently. For instance, I have been advocating counting each indecent utterance in a broadcast program as a separate violation, as the statute on its face appears to call for. In fact, in the clip I just showed, you might have noticed a counter in the corner adding up the number of times the swear word was used. Counting each utterance as a separate violation could significantly increase the amount of fines that we could levy.

Martin's appointment comes shortly after the departure of the FCC's Republican Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy, who is expected to be replaced by Bush nominee Rebecca Armendariz Klein, a former adviser to Bush.

The FCC's pending agenda of issues include deciding what rules should apply to VoIP, deciding whether to approve or deny SBC's purchase of AT&T, and Verizon's acquisition of MCI, transitioning broadcast TV to digital signals and rewriting media-concentration rules and overhauling the system phone companies use to compensate each other for completing calls.

Powell will reportedly step down from his post by the end of today, the FCC said in a statement.

In his closing statement as chairman, Powell congratulated his successor: "He will soon take a front seat at the technology revolution. His wide knowledge of telecommunication policy issues and insight into the rapidly changing nature of communications technology will serve the agency well. Ultimately, everything the FCC does must serve the public interest and benefit consumers, and I am confident he will be vigilant in pursuing these goals."