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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Martin in the Hot Seat (Again)

Today, the Federal Communications Commission (“Commission” or “FCC”) voted to overturn its 32-year old media ownership prohibition. Under the ban, broadcasters in the nation’s 20 largest markets are prohibited from also owning a newspaper. Today’s vote is somewhat surprising due to the intense criticism that Chairman Kevin Martin & Co. have received in recent weeks from members of the House and Senate on media ownership, Commission oversight and operations, as well as a host of other issues. Legislators have questioned Martin’s self-imposed “KGB-like atmosphere,” lack of accessibility and a slew of decisions based on little evidence or notice. Although Martin promised lawmakers more transparency, Martin appears to have ignored his own recommendations by continuing his pattern of making last minute changes to the proposal prior to the Commission vote. Again, significant backlash is expected due to Martin’s rush to bring the item to agenda and a vote.

Cable companies are most affected by Martin’s erratic regulatory agenda. It is expected that the Commission will pass a rule prohibiting cable companies from serving no more than 30% of the nation’s subscribers in the near future. Martin also has hopes of reincarnating his a-la-carte pricing plan and extending indecency rules to apply to cable. Hopefully Martin will raise these, and all other issues, in an open forum, where such contentious issues are subject to the appropriate level the rhetoric and debate warranted.


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