Some anti-deregulation activists were making hay Tuesday out of Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell's sudden withdrawl from the FCC's May 26 localism hearing in Rapid City, S.D.
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. There have already been localism hearings in San Antonio and Charlotte, N.C., both of which Powell attended.
Freepress.net was sending out e-mails Tuesday under the heading "FCC Chairman Michael Powell is AWOL," and suggesting the absence from his own hearing was "an insult to every American and to democracy itself."
An FCC spokesman said it was a scheduling conflict that would require Powell to be traveling back to Washington for a White House meeting instead of presiding, but would not elaborate beyond saying it was not related to the the new terrorist threat warnings. White House spokesman Allen Abney described it as a private dinner, but would not elaborate either.
Powell had been slated to take questions on a variety of localism issues, but a release with final details of the localism hearing issued yesterday afternoon said that FCC Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps would preside at the hearing, per earlier plans, but made no mention of Powell.
Powell still planned to deliver the keynote Wednesday morning at an FCC conference on Indian Telecommunications Initiatives being held in South Dakota in conjunction with the localism hearing.