Bush Appoints Fine-Happy Puritan to FCC Chair

17 March 2005

President Bush has appointed an existing member of the Federal Communications Commission to replace outgoing chairman Michael K Powell. As an extant commissioner, the appointment of Kevin J Martin does not require the usual ratification by the Senate.

Martin's reputation as an archetypal rightist thinker with a penchant for imposing even larger fines for broadcast indecency has not deterred big media from welcoming his appointment. In particular, his deregulatory leanings are music to the ears of the cable and broadcast lobbies.

Croons National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Kyle E McSlarrow: "We look forward to continuing to work closely with chairman Martin to maintain a deregulatory environment for competitive telecommunications services."

But enthusiasm for the appointment among libertarian and consumer groups was less marked.

"Mr Martin has consistently advocated expanded government regulation of broadcast program content," said Jonathan Rintels, executive director of the Center for Creative Voices in Media. He accused the commissioner of allowing the definition of what constitutes indecency to become "unacceptably" vague.

Gene Kimmelman, senior director of public policy and advocacy for Consumers Union, was circumspection personified, simply expressing optimism that Martin will keep an open mind.

Martin himself delivered the usual trite acceptance speech: "I look forward to working with the administration, Congress, my colleagues and the FCC's talented staff to ensure that American consumers continue to enjoy the benefits of the best communications system in the world."

Data sourced from Washington Post Online; additional content by WARC staff