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FCC’s Martin: Hoisted by His Own Petard?

December 9, 2007 9:00 PM

A Nov. 13 New York Times op-ed provided a high-visibility platform for Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin to unveil his proposal for concluding the agency’s media-ownership proceedings. But last week there were indications the op-ed could quickly become prima facie support for critics’ contentions that Mr. Martin and the FCC didn’t adequately evaluate public comment in drawing new rules. The appellate court that overturned the FCC’s last attempt to rewrite ownership rules rejected them in part because the agency didn’t adequately seek or evaluate public comment. That same court will get to review any new rules the FCC approves, and is likely to see the op-ed as clear evidence the agency didn’t. In addition, the timing of the op-ed may exacerbate the ire of powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., who was already upset about the FCC’s procedures on ownership and other proceedings. The problem: the op-ed appeared on Tuesday, Nov. 13, a scant four days after the FCC’s last public hearing on ownership, which occurred Friday, Nov. 9, in Seattle (and lasted until nearly 1 a.m. Pacific time Nov. 10). That left Mr. Martin little time to evaluate the Seattle comments and craft both a proposal (and an op-ed about it) in time to make the newspaper’s deadline. Of course, he might have had time if the proposal had been drawn before the FCC heard public comment, a procedural no-no. The Times declined to say exactly when the op-ed was submitted. Mr. Martin said that he had been evaluating comments heard earlier during the media-ownership proceeding, but denied making a final decision before the Seattle hearing. No final decision had been made, but was I considering it? Were my views becoming more and more formed as we were going through the process? Sure.
—Ira Teinowitz

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