Adelstein gets FCC nod, not spotlight

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Jonathan Adelstein was confirmed last week to fill the fifth and final open
Federal Communications Commission seat, but the spotlight may move quickly to
potential swing vote Kevin Martin.

Adelstein's nomination will provide a deadlock-breaking vote on several key
telecommunications issues, including revisions to cable-carriage rules for digital-TV
stations, which have been stalled at the commission since August.

Although Adelstein has followed protocol for pending nominees by declining to
comment on specific industry issues, his close ties to Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.)
suggest to many that he will be a close ally of fellow commission Democrat Michael
Copps.

If the two cooperate to oppose chairman Michael Powell's deregulatory moves,
attention may soon turn to Kevin Martin, an independent-minded GOP member of
the panel.

Martin has not been shy about dissenting from Powell on key decisions, and he may
use the threat of an alliance with the Democrats to move things his way.

"Martin is in the position of swing vote if Copps and Adelstein team up,"
one industry source said.

Media Access Project president Andrew Schwartzman said Martin's potential
influence is overestimated.

Although Republican Kathleen Abernathy has typically voted with Powell, he
added, she is showing more independence on several of the more complex issues
stalled by the lack of a three-vote majority. "We may well see a situation
where, on a particular issue, any commissioner could be the swing vote," Schwartzman said.

Schwartzman also predicted that Adelstein, like Copps, will successfully
temper commission decisions he doesn't like, rather than simply dissenting. "Both
come out of the legislative arena and have found ways to get things done," he added.

Public advocates predicted that Adelstein and Copps together will be a stronger
voice of resistance to additional industry deregulation. "The public now has an
opportunity to see the real differences between the market approach of FCC
chairman Powell and those who believe the electronic media should be
required to serve as well as it can sell," said Jeff Chester, executive director
of the Center for Digital Democracy.

While Adelstein's views are still an open book, the industry groups that will
soon be lobbying him were full of praise last week. "We're delighted that he has
been confirmed," National Association of Broadcasters president Eddie Fritts said.

Adelstein's confirmation had been held up in a fight between Daschle and
Republican leader Trent Lott over judicial nominations blocked or rejected by
Democrats. A particular sore spot was the defeat of Judge Charles Pickering from
Lott's home state of Mississippi.

Adelstein is confirmed to serve the balance of former commissioner Gloria
Tristani's term, which expires June 30. Industry sources speculated, however,
that he will win a new full, five-year term before his current tenure
expires.

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