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Martin Blames Cable For Dingell Probe

Washington  -- Former Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin's long good-bye to the cable industry continued with the release of a letter intended to be his answer to the pounding he took in a  report last month by House investigators under former Energy and Commerce  Committee chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.).

The 110-page Dingell report slammed Martin's management of the FCC, accusing the Bush appointee of manipulating data, refusing to provide due process to cable and other  industries, and demoting career FCC officials who disagreed with  him.

"Most of the criticisms contained in the Majority Staff Report reflect the vehement opposition of the cable and wireless industries to my policies to serve and protect consumers," Martin said in his 11-page rebuttal.

Martin sent his objections to House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Energy and Commerce Committee ranking Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas. The letter, dated Jan. 19, was posted on the FCC's Web site Wednesday, a day after Martin had resigned.

"In my view, the Majority's report ignored relevant information, contained numerous errors, and lacked substance," Martin wrote.

During his last days in office, Martin ordered staff to act on a raft of cable-related matters, including a few that had been pending for more than a year. He also sent letters to Capitol Hill  complaining about rising nominal cable rates and had staff issue $225,000  in proposed fines to nine cable operators for allegedly refusing  to cooperate with a Martin investigation into the movement of  channels from analog to digital service.

The Dingell report was the culmination of a year-long probe into how Martin had been running the FCC, which started to gain public notice in 2007 after Martin routinely delayed the start of the FCC's monthly public meeting often by several hours.

Although at times Martin's letter referred to Dingell's end product as the "Majority  Staff Report," he didn't mention the report's official title: "Deception and  Distrust: The FCC Under Chairman Kevin J.Martin." However, a top Barton said that all Dingell's staff found was that Martin "doesn't play well with others."

In his letter, Martin reprised some of his epic battles with cable, including one related to any possible consumer benefits  associated with the a la carte sale of cable channels.

In November 2004, the FCC under then-chairman Michael Powell released a report that concluded that  the retail sale of cable programming on a per-channel basis would lead to higher  monthly cable bills and drive niche channels from the market because they  couldn't survive outside packages headlined by channels with national  brands.

When Martin became chairman in March 2005, he had FCC staff rewrite the a la carte report in secret and provide the conclusion that  some consumers could be better off in an a la carte environment.

That wasn't unusual, Martin insisted in his latest letter to Capitol Hill.

"The [new a la carte] report criticized by [Dingell's] staff  was produced by [FCC] staff under the same circumstances adhering to  the same process as the initial a la carte report," Martin said.

In reality, the bipartisan leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee  and its Telecommunications and the Internet subcommittee, in addition to Sen.  John McCain (R-Ariz.), asked Powell for the a la carte study. They didn't ask Martin to revise it.

In preparing the report, Powell's FCC solicited public comment, which yielded more than 2,500 comments from interested individuals, the cable industry and a variety of  others. Powell also held an all-day symposium on a la carte issues. Martin,  however, issued his a la carte report without asking anyone to comment on  his conclusion that the first a la carte report was  incorrect.

"I followed the same procedures that have been followed for the past 15 years by FCC Chairmen, both Democratic and Republican alike," Martin said in his letter.