The White House has said it intends to name Republican FCC commissioner Kevin Martin to succeed FCC Chairman Michael Powell, who has been expected to exit by the end of this week.
"I am deeply honored to have been designated as the next Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission," Said Martin, "and I thank President Bush for this distinct privilege."
The former Bush campaign lawyer will top the commission as it prepares to tackle some hefty issues, including the rewrite of its media ownership rules, a congressional redo of the telecommunications act, and a digital transition whose ground rules may soon change.
The ownership rule rewrite will affect monopolies, duopolies and media crossownership between TV and newspapers.
Martin, 38, a former White House aide, was a Bush campaign lawyer in 2000.
His resume also includes serving on the Bush-Cheney transition team--his wife, Catherine, is spokeswoman for Dick Cheney--and was deputy general counsel for Bush for President.
He was also a legal adviser to FCC Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth, and before that worked as an associate with law firm of Wiley (former FCC Chairman Dick Wiley), Rein & Fielding
Unlike Powell, who reluctantly stepped up indecency enforcement, Martin wants the FCC to get tougher.
He would use the agency’s pulpit to persuade broadcasters to voluntarily dedicate an hour of prime time each night to family-friendly programming, and supports family-friendly cable and satellite programming packages.
Martin also wants the FCC to give TV affiliates the right to reject any network shows they deem inappropriate for their viewers.
Martin will not need congressional confirmation since he is already a member of the commission.
The appointment drew swift response from industry and government.
Martin's chairmanship does not sit well with Jeff Chester of media activist group Center for Digital Democracy.
"It is, sadly, a victory for the forces of so-called "decency," he said in a statement. "Religious and conservative groups campaigned for the elevation of Mr. Martin. They have succeeded in establishing a new 'litmus' test for the FCC chair--someone who will be at the forefront of monitoring programming....Given Mr. Martin's partnership with FCC Commissioner Copps, and a supportive White House and Congress, there could be a serious chilling effect on radio and TV."
NAB President Eddie Fritts, by contrast, was delighted: "Kevin Martin is the right person at the right time to lead the FCC. Kevin has a passion for public service and a deep understanding and appreciation for the value of local broadcasting.
"We salute President Bush for this superb choice and we look forward to working with Chairman Martin and his colleagues."
Michael Powell had praise as well: "His wide knowledge of telecommunication policy issues and insight into the rapidly changing nature of communications technology will serve the agency well," he said in a statement.
Congratulations also came from the other side of the FCC's political spectrum: " I have enjoyed working with Commissioner Martin over the past three and a half years and look forward to working together with him on the important unfinished agenda of the FCC," said Democrat Michael Copps.
Powell's departure and Martin's elevation leaves a seat open. In congratulating Martin Wednesday, Commerce Committee Co-Chairman Ted Stevens put in anthother plug for a former aide: "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,” said Stevens.
The other co-chairman, Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) also welcomed Martin aboard, saying: "We look forward to working with Chairman Martin as he endeavors to build consensus and adopt policies that will spur competition and innovation, and will bring the benefits of the Internet age to all Americans.”
Congressman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, had this to say: "Commissioner Martin's appointment comes at a critical juncture as Congress looks to update the nation's outdated telecommunications laws. I look forward to working with Chairman Martin and the President in the months ahead as Congress looks to remove the regulatory barriers that are suffocating the telecom sector."
Consumer Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro was singing Martin's praises: "I applaud the nomination of Commissioner Martin to serve as the next FCC chairman. The selection is a wise and positive choice."
This from new NCTA President Kyle McSlarrow: "We would like to congratulate Kevin Martin on his appointment as FCC Chairman. We look forward to continuing to work closely with Chairman Martin to maintain a deregulatory environment for competitive telecommunications services."
Put Jonathan Rintels of the Center for Creative voices in Media in the concerned column: "Mr. Martin’s support as FCC Commissioner of increasing media concentration and consolidation, as well as his support for expanded government regulation of program content that some find objectionable, are cause for concern to not only creative artists, but more importantly, to the American public."
Natoinal Relegious Broadcasters President/CEO Dr. Frank Wright, who supports the FCC's stepped up enforcement of its idecency rules, was upbeat: “During my tenure as president of NRB, I have developed enormous respect for the intellect, character, integrity and clear-headed thinking of Mr. Martin. His understanding of the multifaceted issues facing a rapidly-changing media world is impressive; his carefully reasoned and well-balanced approach to these complex matters is even more so.”