Deregulation foe Free Press is taking Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell to task for not attending Wednesday's localism hearing in Monterey, Calif., due to a scheduling conflict.
Free Press managing director Josh Silver similarly declared Powell AWOL last May when he missed another localism hearing due to a conflict.
"The American public should be incensed," said Silver, "that just last week Powell attended a series of industry events in nearby Menlo Park and San Francisco, but now he can't attend the very hearing he called for. As always, Michael Powell has plenty of time for big media companies and no time for the people whose democracy is being compromised by his policy choices."
Not exactly, said an FCC insider. Powell had planned to attend the hearing as originally scheduled in June, but when it was rescheduled for July due to problems with the venue, he says, it conflicted with an annual family vacation in Cape Cod.
Powell's top legal aide, John Cody, will be there, as will AV people to record it so that Powell can review the tape on his return, as he did with the South Dakota localism hearing in late May that he missed due to a dinner with President Bush, said Cody.
Besides, says FCC spokesman David Fiske, "there was never any expectation that all five of the commissioners would go to all the hearings. Eighty percent of it is listening to what people say, and between John Cody and the chairman, they will be listening."
Powell called for a series of hearings on broadcast localism last summer, in part as a way to separate that issue from the ownership de-reg revamp he was trying to get done on orders from Congress. Powell attended the first two localism hearings in San Antonio and Charlotte, N.C.