"Kevin Martin has always been much more pragmatic, even when he agreed with Powell's philosophy," Kimmelman said.
The agency currently is considering an appeal by Fox Broadcasting Co. to overturn a $1.2 million fine proposed against 169 Fox stations for broadcasting an April 2003 episode of the since-canceled show "Married by America" featuring digitally obscured nudity and whipped-cream-covered strippers that the FCC ruled was indecent.
Kevin J. Martin, left, was chosen by President Bush to replace Michael K. Powell, right, as FCC chairman. Some groups expressed concern about his anti-indecency stance. Cable and broadcast lobbies, in general, were warm to his selection.
(Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
Also under review: An investigation of a December 2003 live Fox awards show in which actress Nicole Richie uttered two profanities.
"The FCC has been delinquent in its stewardship of the public airwaves," said L. Brent Bozell, president of the Parents Television Council, whose members have flooded the FCC with indecency complaints in recent years. "This irresponsibility must stop, and with the leadership of chairman Martin, we are confident it will."
In addition to indecency, Martin has been a strong proponent of lifting a 30-year-old prohibition on one company owning a newspaper and television station in the same city. The commissioner backed a move to eliminate the "cross-ownership" ban as part of the proposed media ownership rules passed by the FCC in 2003 and later thrown out by a federal court.
Martin, a former lawyer with telecom powerhouse Wiley, Rein & Fielding LLP, has close ties to the White House, having served as deputy general counsel to the 2000 Bush campaign. His wife, Catherine, works in Vice President Cheney's office. He is a former University of North Carolina student body president and Harvard Law graduate, and was appointed to the FCC in 2001.
With Martin's elevation to chairman and Powell's exit, a Republican seat opens on the five-member commission. Earl W. Comstock, former counsel to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), is considered a strong contender, along with Michael D. Gallagher, assistant secretary of the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the president's principal adviser on telecommunication policies.
Both may land on the commission, however, if the third Republican commissioner, Kathleen Q. Abernathy, chooses to step down later this year. Democratic commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein recently was reappointed to a five-year term, and fellow Democrat Michael J. Copps, whose term expires in June, is being pushed for renomination by Stevens.