1/21/2005

Like Father, Like Son

CNNMoney is reporting this morning that FCC Chairman Michael Powell is resigning from the agency.

A senior government official says Powell, a member of the FCC since November 1998 and the chairman since early 2001, will announce his resignation later Friday. His term on the commission runs through 2007.

FCC spokesmen were not immediately available for comment, though one person in the press office said a new release is anticipated.
Oddly enough, it was only yesterday that The Economist ran a piece on Mr. Powell, lauding his work in protecting nascent technologies like VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) while chiding him for his agency's crusade against "Janet Jackson's errant breast".

In a way, Powell is the C. Everett Koop of the FCC. Just as Koop was the first Surgeon General whose name became a household word, It's a challenge to name any previous chairs of the FCC. Powell's tenure has been a mixed bag. His agency's focus on broadcast decency appeared to cast aside any first amendment considerations. Yet, Powell never undertook any effort to extend the regulatory reach of the FCC to subscription services like cable or satellite TV. New media has certainly flowered on his watch: cable TV, satellite radio, and the internet continue to make headway against the old media of broadcast TV and radio. On the other hand, it remains to be seen whether his efforts on deregulation will eventually prove themselves boon or boondoggle.

I tend to regard the FCC as something of an unruly watchdog; effective in what it's supposed to do so long as its leash is kept very short. Powell's hand was on the leash for four years, and I think it's fair to say that the FCC rarely did more than bark a lot and annoy the neighbors. I'm willing to call that a success.