- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 16, 2005

President Bush promoted Kevin J. Martin to chairman of the Federal Communications Commission yesterday, choosing a consistent critic of indecency on the airwaves as the nation’s chief regulator of the media and telecommunications industry.

Mr. Martin, whom Mr. Bush appointed to the FCC in 2001, will succeed Michael K. Powell, who announced his resignation Jan. 21 after a stormy four-year chairmanship marked by battles over indecency and rules that keep media conglomerates from growing larger.

The FCC, under Mr. Martin, is expected to become tougher on indecency than it was under Mr. Powell, who has said he was uncomfortable regulating the content of radio and television programs because it clashed with his belief in free speech.

The agency also is poised to continue pushing for looser media-ownership rules.

“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,” Mr. Martin said.

A spokesman said Mr. Martin had no further comment.

Mr. Martin consistently has voted for the indecency fines that the FCC has proposed in recent years, often issuing statements that called for higher penalties.

He also was the strongest proponent of lifting the 30-year-old prohibition on one company owning a newspaper and television station in the same city. The FCC adopted rules in 2003 that would lift the ban, but a federal court threw them out.

Mr. Martin, 38, is one of three Republicans on the five-member panel that governs the FCC. Because he is a sitting member, his promotion does not require Senate confirmation.

Mr. Powell will step down today. Fellow Republican Kathleen Q. Abernathy is expected to depart this year, too.

Likely candidates for those openings include Earl Comstock, former counsel to Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican, and Michael D. Gallagher, an assistant secretary at the Commerce Department and the president’s principal adviser on telecommunications policies.

Mr. Martin’s close ties to the White House made him the front-runner to succeed Mr. Powell, whose father, Colin L. Powell, stepped down Jan. 26 as secretary of state.

Before Mr. Martin joined the FCC, he was a lawyer for President Bush’s 2000 campaign and the Florida recount. The Harvard Law graduate also was a legal adviser to Harold Furchtgott-Roth, who served as an FCC commissioner in the late 1990s.

Mr. Martin’s wife, Catherine, is a special assistant to the president on economic policy.

Several conservative groups, including the watchdog Parents Television Council, cheered Mr. Martin’s promotion.

“I’ve seen how much he cares about [curbing indecency]. He doesn’t just talk about it,” said Janet M. LaRue, chief counsel for Concerned Women for America, a religious group that urged its members to write the White House on Mr. Martin’s behalf.

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