FCC Chairman Kevin Martin Announces Resignation

Kevin Martin today said he would resign as chairman of the FCC, effective Jan. 20, less than a month before the DTV transition is scheduled to conclude. Martin issued a statement saying his philosophy “has been to pursue deregulation while paying close attention to its impact on consumers and the particulars of a given market, to balance deregulation with consumer protection.”

Martin succeeded Michael Powell, a sometimes cheeky sort who seemed to enjoy the limelight. Martin presented a more contemplative demeanor until Details magazine ran a photo of him standing on a bed in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington with two radio industry executives.

Martin was hobbled in the first year of his tenure, which started in March of 2005, while the appointment of a third Republican was delayed. When Robert McDowell, the third Republican, was appointed nearly a year later, he proved to be an enigmatic and independent thinker who often declined to fall in line with the chairman.

Martin’s agendas were often thwarted by a lack of consensus. Monthly general meetings rarely started on time, and were sometimes delayed by several hours while commissioners bickered over votes. The two Democratic commissioners frequently complained that Martin shared the details of his agenda items only hours before meetings. Items were often dropped or heavily altered.

His intention to reform media ownership comprised allowing the same company to own a TV station and a newspaper in the same market. His effort to make the cable industry offer channels a la carte went nowhere. One thing Martin managed to do was to clear the decks on indecency complaints, leveling a record amount of fines at TV stations and networks over material deemed indecent. The networks went to war in the court and got portions of the levies dismissed or reduced. Some arguments remain pending.

Martin has clearly been thinking about his resignation, writing a 5,900-word tome announcing his departure outlining his myriad achievements.

Like his predecessor, Martin will cool his heels at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C.