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After Powell

If Republican FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin replaces Michael Powell as FCC chairman, broadcasters can expect tougher crackdowns on prime time sex and violence.

Martin generally sides with the industry on decisions that affect the business. But he does not believe that last year’s record-setting indecency fines did enough to discourage stations from airing shows inappropriate for kids.

He would also inherit an agency in flux. Because of a recent Administration decision not to seek Supreme Court intervention, the FCC will be forced to rewrite nearly all of its broadcast ownership rules. The new guidelines will affect monopolies, duopolies and media crossownership between TV and newspapers.

In addition to Powell’s successor. Bush is expected to fill a likely vacancy left by Republican Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy, who has said she wants to return to the private sector. The leading candidates to fill the Republican slot are Rebecca Klein, a former Texas utility commission chair, and Earl Comstock, a telecom lawyer and former aide to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens. Klein also has a shot at the chairman’s post.

Martin, 38, a former White House aide, was a Bush campaign lawyer in 2000. Unlike Powell, who reluctantly stepped up indecency enforcement, Martin wants the FCC to get tougher.

He would use the agency’s pulpit to persuade broadcasters to voluntarily dedicate an hour of prime time each night to family-friendly programming.

Martin also wants the FCC to give TV affiliates the right to reject any network shows they deem inappropriate for their viewers.