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Kevin Martin Named Head of the FCC

Washington- The White House today announced the appointment of Kevin Martin as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

Martin, 38, has been a member of the commission since 2001. He has carved a separate niche from outgoing chairman and fellow Republican Michael Powell, for instance voting against Powell on key telephone issues.

Recently Martin’s was the sole vote among the five FCC commissioners in favor of granting broadcasters the right to have multiple digital channels carried on cable systems.

Martin has emerged as an energetic critic of broadcast indecency, proposing heavy fines and calling for cable to institute a family-friendly programming tier.

Martin boasts excellent Bush administration connections. He worked on the Bush campaign, on the 2000 transition team and as a special economic adviser to the White House. His wife, Catherine, was an assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney and still works in the White House as an economic adviser.

Broadcasters, who thought Powell unfairly considered them a legacy service in an emerging broadband world, offered a positive initial reaction to Martin’s appointment. “He understands what local broadcasters do in the community,” said one broadcast executive. “He’s not a creature of Washington like Powell was. I think we’re going to get a clean shake.”

Martin does not need Senate confirmation to move into the chairmanship — a possible advantage for his candidacy to become chairman, since partisan rancor over judicial nominations threatens to halt Senate confirmation proceedings.

Martin holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a master’s from Duke University and a law degree from Harvard Law School. He worked as an associate at Wiley, Rein and Fielding — a well connected Washington firm where the communications practice is headed by Dick Wiley, an FCC chair during the 1970s.

The departure this week of Powell, who was FCC chair since 2001, leaves the FCC with four members — two Democrats and two Republicans.

The other Republican, Kathleen Abernathy, is expected to step down. That would leave two Republican seats to be filled by the administration and confirmed by the Senate.

Those commonly mentioned as candidates include former Texas telecommunications regulator Rebecca Klein, federal spectrum regulator Michael Gallagher, and Earl Comstock, a former aide to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), chair of the Commerce Committee that oversees the FCC.


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