Telecom Subcommittee Vice Chairman Gives Martin Good Grade

Mike Doyle Appears on C-SPAN's The Communicators

House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee vice chairman Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) conceded that the committee has concerns about how the Federal Communications Commission does its job but said he is reserving judgment on whether information at the FCC is being "filtered" so that "not all of the commissioners get all the information" and gave FCC chairman Kevin Martin a pretty good grade overall.

In an interview for C-SPAN's The Communicators, Doyle said Martin has, "for the most part," tried to work with the committee. "He's always been willing to come in and discuss those issues, and I'm going to keep an open mind until we get more information at the hearings,” he added.

The House Energy & Commerce Committee will hold oversight hearings related to an investigation into FCC processes launched by committee chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) in the wake of criticisms about how the FCC under Martin conducted its media-ownership-rule review.

Doyle said the goal of the hearings was a transparent process in which all five commissioners have access to all the information.

Asked to grade Martin, Doyle gave him a "B to B-minus." He called him "very smart" and "very politically savvy" and said he has "a genuine interest in the issues of the committee." He also said that while Martin can come across as heavy-handed, he also found him to be willing to discuss the issues they disagreed on.

He said that where the heavy hand comes in -- and Doyle pointed out that it was still an allegation -- was that when there was information favorable to the chairman, it was shared, but it "somehow does not make its way to other commissioners" when it was unfavorable.

On the digital-TV transition, Doyle said he had mixed feelings on trying a few test markets before the actual Feb. 17 switch-over. "To give [viewers] two dates to worry about in a region would have its own set of problems," he said, adding that "it may help us deal with some of the problems that are going to occur on Feb. 19. I have some reservations of creating two dates, now." (Actually, he is in danger of creating three dates, since the first day of all-digital full-power TV is Feb. 18.)

Doyle said he thought there needed to be a more thorough DTV-education process than at present. “My fear is that on Feb. 20, we're going to be getting a lot of phone calls,” he said, adding yet another date.

"I think the industry has done what we asked them to do" in terms of education, he said. "I think the government ought to have done more."