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FCC Chair Accused of Abuse of Power

by Miranda Trimmier 


Tags: Media, FCC, Kevin Martin, cable pricing, John Dingell, Jonathan Adelstein, Michael Copps, Portfolio, Broadcasting and Cable, Free Press,

Kevin Martinnew Congressional report charges FCC chairman Kevin Martin with “egregious abuses of power” during his nearly four years at the helm. In the 110-page report, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who helped lead the inquiry into Martin’s leadership style, faults him for the FCC's “dysfunctional” climate.

While it doesn’t appear that Martin broke any rules or laws, the probe levels some damning criticism. As Portfolio observes, he’s accused of manipulating reports that conflicted with his agenda. In one instance, he allegedly altered the conclusions of a report to Congress on à la carte cable pricing; in another, he drew on questionable data to justify increased oversight of the cable industry, and suppressed the study after it was rejected by other FCC commissioners.

Martin is also blamed for fostering an atmosphere of "fear and intimidation" at the Commission. Workers complained of a lack of transparency in decision making, extreme micromanagement, and retaliation for dissent. Last March, some FCC employees wore black in a silent protest against what they viewed as an increasingly bitter, politicized work environment.

Martin is expected the leave the FCC when Obama assumes the presidency, reports Broadcasting & Cable. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), another head to the investigation, says Martin has left the new chairman “a blueprint of what not to do” in the future. Free Press hopes to involve the public in the conversation. They’ve organized a site where you can vote on the issues you’d like to see the Commission tackle, and the organization will present the results to Obama’s FCC transition team in the coming months. Also check out "Big Media Meets Its Match," a 2007 Utne feature on FCC commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps, either of whom could be appointed to replace Martin.