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Powell defends policy, eschews politics

Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell conceded to a C-SPAN audience Wednesday that the agency was taken somewhat by surprise by the intensity of the public outcry over its June media-ownership rules, but he added that the commission is not equipped to fight political battles.

In an appearance prior to the court's ruling Wednesday on staying the ownership rules, Powell called the FCC an expert independent agency and said its judgments should be somewhat insulated.

He said that with only a handful of legislative advisors and press people, he wasn’t armed for battle against the political forces working to undermine the rules. That battle, he added, would be better undertaken by a secretary of communications post in the administration.

Nonetheless, he said, "The next chairman" -- adding quickly, "or this one, who plans to be here for a while" {there have been rumors of his exit) -- needs to further appreciate that the issues the FCC deals with are increasingly on the cutting edge and will "get it into the thick of things" politically.

Asked whether he thought the just-announced NBC/Vivendi Universal deal would add more fuel to the fire for deregulation foes, he said he thought so but he instead saw it as NBC’s attempt to "survive in a digital world."