Senate Confirms Martin's Renomination

The Nomination of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin for another term atop the commission was approved on the Senate floor Thursday night.

There had been a hold on the nomination, generally thought to have been place by Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) over phone-related issues. But it had also been widely expected to be lifted so that he could be approved in the lame-duck session of the still-Republican-controlled Congress.

The vote was unanimous according to a spokesman for the Senate Commerce Committee.

Martin was renominated in April for a second, five-year term. His first term expired June 30.

The Senate Commerce Committee voted in September 21 to 0 to approve the renomination, but an expected floor vote before the election break did not materialize.

Holds and hold-ups are not particularly uncommon. New commissioner Robert McDowell's nomination was on hold for months as part of a general hold linked to Katrina-related issues, and when that was lifted there was a second hold said to be related to communications policy and not to any opposition to McDowell himself.

And it isn't just Congress that can drag their feet. FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein's renomination was held up by the White House two years ago in a spat with Democrats over their filibusters of judicial appointments.

Even without renomination, Martin could have served until the close of the next session of Congress, which means until the fall of 2007.

"I am deeply honored to have been confirmed by the Senate for a second term as Commissioner and Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission," said Martin Friday. "I thank President Bush and the Congress for the privilege to continue to serve in his Administration and alongside my colleagues on the Commission.

I look forward to working with the Administration and Congress, as well as with my fellow Commissioners and the incredibly able staff at the FCC to ensure that all Americans share in the benefits and opportunities offered by the best communications system in the world. I will continue to work to provide a regulatory environment that promotes competition and drives investment and innovation while protecting consumers and promoting public safety."

Broadcasters, at least as represented by the National Association of Broadcasters, backed Martin's renomination, saying they "applaud the great job and balanced approach that the chairman has taken on public policy regulatory issues."

The association reiterated that support Friday. "NAB has great respect for Chairman Martin and we look forward to working with him and all the other commissioners going forward," said NAB President David Rehr.

Why the support given the contentious indecency battle? Martin has pushed for government-mandated cable carriage of broadcasters' multicast signals and supports deregulatory media ownership rules.
The telcos, also big dereg fans, were quick to add their approval. Walter McCormick, President of  phone association US Telecom, said:  "We congratulate Chairman Martin on his confirmation and look forward to his continued role at the helm of the FCC.
"With so many pressing issues before the Commission, we appreciate the Chairman’s leadership and vision for a vibrant, market-based communications industry. We will continue to work closely with the Chairman and the other Commissioners to implement policies to spur the deployment of broadband, resolve the challenges of intercarrier compensation and preserve the future for universal service.” 
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens called Martin a "fine chairman" and said he was "delighted that he will have another term to continue his work at the FCC.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.