Powell announces departure from FCC

FCC Chairman Michael Powell has announced he will leave the commission.

Michael Powell will step down as chairman and a commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in March.

In a statement from Powell regarding his resignation, the chairman said he submitted a letter of resignation to the President yesterday “with a mixture of pride and regret.”

Powell, who has served as chairman of the commission for four years, has led the agency during a time of profound change in the telecommunications and broadcast industries.

“During my tenure, we worked to get the law right in order to stimulate innovative technology that puts more power in the hands of the American people, giving them greater choices that enrich their lives,” Powell said in his statement. “Evidence of our success can be seen increasingly in the offices, the automobiles and the living rooms of the American consumer.”

Under his leadership, Powell pushed to resolve many of the thorny issues and obstacles obstructing the transition to digital television broadcasting, including creating the DTV Task Force to encourage the DTV facility build out of stations, instituting plug-and-play rules to make sure consumers’ DTV sets would work without a set-top box and setting broadcast flag rules to protect content.

According to Media Bureau chief W. Kenneth Ferree, a plan to complete the transition to digital television and relinquishment of analog spectrum was on the chairman’s desk as word of Powell’s departure came.

The industry faces uncertainty over several aspects of the transition end-game, including how the commission intends to interpret its 85 percent DTV coverage rule, a new date certain for completion in 2009 and whether or not cable systems will or can be compelled to carry multiple DTV channels from every television broadcaster.

Powell will also be remembered for stewarding the agency through a contentious and in-the-end failed attempt to rewrite media ownership rules as well as ushering in a renewed period of heavy fines against television and radio broadcasters who were found to have aired indecent material.

The Wall Street Journal Online reported today that commissioner Dennis Martin is pushing hard to become Powell’s successor. Other possible candidates include: former head of the Texas Public Utility Commission Becky Klein; Michael Gallagher of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration; and telecom consultant Janice Obuchowski, according to the WSJ Online report.

For more information, visit www.fcc.gov.

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