Deborah McAdams Weighs In

Kevin Jeffrey Martin will go down as one of the more contrarian FCC chairmen in the commission's history. You say po-tah-to, and he says po-tay-to. The guy cant help it. Maybe he didn't excel in junior high sports.

Whatever the source of the chairman's antipathy, he should be given credit for riding that pony to the ground. He pretty much did just that when he told the Senate Commerce Committee that he wouldnt delay a vote on media ownership.

There are a lot of ways to say "no," especially in Washington, D.C., where it is de rigueur to seem to be saying something when in fact you are not. The practice is often exercised by directing at someones face a litany of powerfully emphasized syntax that means absolutely nothing.

The FCC chairman is nothing if not a master of the meaningless, a necessary to survival skill on Capitol Hill unless youre an anonymous blogger. Public figures are inundated with queries.

Answers fall into three categories:
Blather--by far the most common form of communication, blather typically consists of meaningful words strung together in a meaningless way. One enduring example conjured unknown unknowns that were known. Blather gets a bit sinister when its used to obfuscate, like calling a $40 billion spending bill the Work, Marriage, and Family Promotion Reconciliation Act of 2005.

Message--the primary way to promote ones agenda is to stay on message by repeating it until you are blue in the face. FCC Commissioner Michael Copps can reel off his localism bullet points in his sleep.

Candor--Easily the rarest form of political talk, the practice of saying what you mean still does occur on Capital Hill, as it did in Senate Commerce Committee hearing room this month when Democrat John Kerry of Massachusetts asked Martin if he would delay a Dec. 18 vote on media ownership rules.

Martin just said, no, which should put to rest any speculation about his political aspirations. I know for a fact he could have danced around the question like a toreador, because hes given me answers that Noam Chomsky couldnt diagram with AutoCAD. Hes also answered other questions with absolute candor, like when I once asked him after a House hearing on the DTV transition what hed like from Congress.

"I'd like them to support mulicast must-carry," he said.
As a fellow contrarian, I'd like to stand up for Martin, because no one else is, and because I've seen Congress hammer him to finish something and then hammer him when he tries to.

Media ownership rules have been sitting around since 2002. Get them off the table and back in the courts, already, where everybody knows theyre bound to go.

Lets get on with that Third Periodic Review of the Digital Television transmission, so 600-plus broadcasters across the country have a clue how to make the Feb. 17, 2009 analog deadline.

(Editor's Note: And so the FCC did finish the Third Periodical, on New Year's Eve.)