Former FCC Chairmen find common ground


If there was one thing that tied the FCC chairmanships of Democrat Reed Hundt and Republicans Michael Powell and Kevin Martin together, it was the inextricable grip that political concerns had on the communications issues they were faced with. The trio recently appeared together on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators” program.

The trio agreed that media ownership rules are based on conditions that existed decades in the past and make little or no sense in the current competitive landscape, in which television and radio have been joined by cable, satellite and internet based services offering consumers hundreds more entertainment and information options than existed when the rules were crafted.

Most of Michael Powell’s attempt to update broadcast caps almost immediately wound up in the courts; as did Kevin Martin’s attempt to at least update newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rules.

According to Wall Street Journal, all three agreed that one of the least enjoyable issues they dealt with was indecency enforcement. Powell in particular knew he was in for a long day when he personally witnessed Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl half-time performance.

One area where there was a difference of opinion was the merger of Comcast and NBCU. Hundt said it was mainly vertical and noted he had no problem with it; Martin, on the other hand, is a partner at Patton Boggs and is trying to derail the merger on behalf of client Bloomberg.