House Democrats Target FCC Chairman Ahead of Obama Inauguration

11 December 2008

WASHINGTON, DC: With forty days and forty nights to go before Planet Earth enters the Age of Obama, his disciples on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have stepped up their sniping at Kevin J Martin (pictured), Dubya's appointee as Federal Communications Commission chairman.

Martin, a lawyer born with a habeus corpus writ in one hand and a subpoena in the other, married into politics thanks to political leanings alongside which John Wayne seems like a commie agitator.

His four-year tenure in the FCC chair has proved controversial, drawing enemy fire over such issues as unlimited media consolidation – and his aggressive monitoring of cable companies' pricing

Right now, however, Martin's deceptively boyish head  remains tucked well below the political parapet and will likely remain so until he steps down when president-elect Obama takes office.

Meantime, his political foes on the Energy and Commerce Oversight subcommittee have published a damning 26-page report accusing  Martin and his acolytes of manipulating and withholding information both from lawmakers and the other four FCC commissioners.

It also alleges that he created "a climate of fear" among staff at the FCC, which regulates telecommunications and media matters.

The report focuses in particular on the methods used by Martin to extend his control of the agency's operations, citing his "heavy-handed, opaque and non-collegial management style."

In particular, the report points to Martin's alleged manipulation of the findings of an FCC inquiry into the potential consumer benefits of requiring cable companies to sell channels on an individual (or "a la carte") basis.

It accuses Martin of undermining the integrity of the FCC staff and states that he might have improperly influenced the Congressional debate on the matter by ordering agency employees to rewrite a report so as to conclude that a la carte mandates would benefit consumers.

He further attempted to manipulate the findings of an annual FCC report on the state of competition in the market for cable and other video services so that it would show the industry to have a big enough market share to permit additional government regulation. When the full commission voted to reject that conclusion, Martin suppressed the report by withholding its release.

The House report also criticizes Martin's leadership, under which oversight of the Telecommunications Relay Service Fund (which pays for special telecoms services for people with hearing or speech disabilities) was unduly complaisant.

This laxity resulted in overcompensation of the companies providing these services by as much as $100 million annually – a bill that was ultimately footed by phone company customers.

Martin's spokesman says that the FCC chairman is "reviewing the report".

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff