Powell Leaving FCC

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Michael K. Powell, 41, will step down in March as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission after almost four years as the government’s top media and telecommunications regulator, he announced today.

Poor Michael Powell, the son of Colin Powell, was in over his head as major domo of the FCC. If he had stuck to the “geek gadget” stuff, like VoIP and broadband Internet access, both of which he understood and championed, he would have done fine. But the expansion of corporate media ownership, which he was exactly and naively on the wrong side of, and a confused and arbitrary approach to broadcast rule implementation left him the most reviled chairman in FCC history.

Frank Ahrens talks about his tenure:

    Powell was appointed to the FCC by President Clinton in 1997. After George W. Bush was elected president in 2000, Powell was elevated to chairmanship of the commission, which oversees land-based and wireless telecommunication, satellite services and media ownership and patrols the nation’s airwaves for indecency.

    It was these past two areas that proved toughest for Powell, a former Army officer who left the service after suffering a near-fatal injury in a 1987 training exercise in West Germany that left him bedridden for a year.

    In June 2003, Powell and the two other Republicans on the FCC pushed through new media ownership rules that would have allowed the television networks to own a few more stations, tightened national radio ownership rules and let one company own the biggest newspaper and television station in almost every city.

    ….More fines for indecency were proposed under Powell than by all previous chairman combined. In 2004 alone, the FCC proposed nearly $8 million in indecency fines.

    A self-admitted gadget geek, Powell pushed for the rapid rollout of cell phone and wireless communications networks, calling them tools of democracy. Ironically, it was grass roots e-mail campaigns during the media ownership controversy that poured the most heat on Powell. [Washington Post]

We have been following Powell’s tenure rather closely since Blogcritics’ inception in August of ’02 – here are some of the key stories:

Dumpster Bust Keeping It Real Politik: Hey FCC, Who’s Really Complaining?
There’s a lot of Values Talk in America right now. From Janet Jackson’s nipple accoutrements to gay marriage to John Kerry’s decision to put on cammo pants and walk in a field, Values Talk has dominated much of the political…
Posted in Blogcritics Archives on December 31, 2004 05:05 AM

Radio Free Satellite
Despite the clear legal grounds the religious right wanted to extend government reach further into private business.
Posted in Blogcritics Archives on December 28, 2004 09:49 AM

FCC: CBS Appeals, Vonage Exempt
As I stated here in September when the FCC unanimously imposed a fine against CBS for Janet Jackson’s Nipplegate, it was time to close the book and move on. CBS disagrees and has appealed the $550K fine (the maximum…
Posted in Blogcritics Archives on November 9, 2004 02:13 PM

Or more accurately: the Shlub –vs- the Shnook Does anyone remember back to those wonderful days of yester-century when there were real issues of import concerning the First Amendment? One recalls how enthralled we all were with Larry Flynt –vs-…
Posted in Blogcritics Archives on October 27, 2004 12:47 AM

Howard Stern Vs. The FCC
Live radio is always interesting, and today’s events were none the less interesting…
Posted in Blogcritics Archives on October 26, 2004 05:46 PM

Nipplegate Comes to Fine Conclusion
The shoe has finally fallen in the Janet Jackson Super Bowl halftime exposure affair, with the FCC fining CBS $550K for “allowing” the indiscretion (I’m not sure how they could have prevented it short of divine intervention). Does anyone remember… [Edit] Posted in Blogcritics Archives on September 29, 2004 05:35 PM

Ted Turner Talks Media Turkey
If this article isn’t ghost written, then Ted Turner is one hell of a writer, as well as thinker. I have not seen the case made against corporate media consolidation made anywhere else with this clarity, logic, passion, and inside…
Posted in Blogcritics Archives on July 27, 2004 10:18 AM

Breakthrough for Low Power FM
Low power FM radio, a truly democratic use of the radio spectrum, was greatly inhibited when introduced in 2000 by restrictions placed on it under pressure from commercial broadcasters (and NPR), who claimed it would interfere with their signals in…
Posted in Blogcritics Archives on July 26, 2004 10:57 AM

Sack the FCC?
Talking like a screaming, slashing, deranged libertarian gov-o-smasher, Declan McCullagh of CNET wants to abolish the FCC and offers to dynamite their building himself – okay I made that part up: It’s time to abolish the Federal Communications Commission. The…
Posted in Blogcritics Archives on June 8, 2004 06:27 PM

The Media Was Created and Can Be Recreated
The most interesting aspect of the turmoil that has beset the broadcast media, its corporate masters, the FCC, and the public in the wake of the Janet Jackson Super Bowl slip has been the philosophical arguments either for or against…
Posted in Blogcritics Archives on June 5, 2004 04:25 PM

FCC Gets Way Busy
I am becoming a bit less sanguine about the new “zero tolerance” broadcast atmosphere. Yesterday the FCC went pretty nuts with the fines and the condemnations: The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday overruled its staff and declared that an expletive…
Posted in Blogcritics Archives on March 19, 2004 04:56 PM

Broadcast Rules Are Necessary – Only the FCC Can Enforce Them
While my general concerns about free speech are nearly as absolutist as Reason’s Jesse Walker, I see a very specific and definite distinction when it comes to the public airwaves. I do not think the FCC’s indecency rules are unreasonable,…
Posted in Blogcritics Archives on February 12, 2004 08:57 AM

Dammit Janet: The Breast Super Bowl Halftime Show
We watched the Super Bowl – who didn’t – and were paying a fair amount of attention to the halftime show, but never even had a hint that anything “peculiar” had happened until I ran downstairs and did a quick…
Posted in Blogcritics Archives on February 2, 2004 06:26 AM

Murdoch, molding men’s minds, and the FCC sell-out
Republican Michael Powell, Chairman of the FCC, has jammed through another give-away in the media arena. This time, it essentially gives one of the largest-and-getting-larger-still media companies in the world a corner on the global satellite market, and increases its…
Posted in Blogcritics Archives on December 21, 2003 09:34 AM

“Resolution of Disapproval”: Senate Smacks FCC
Call it a stinging rebuke, call it a swift kick to the nutsack, but FCC Chairman Michael Powell’s leadership has been eviscerated by the U.S. Senate: The Senate voted 55 to 40 today to wipe out all of the Federal…
Posted in Blogcritics Archives on September 16, 2003 04:37 PM

FCC critics want to control media content
All these groups and congressmen and other media types in opposition want to control content. Why else would the NRA give a rat’s ass about media ownership?
Posted in Blogcritics Archives on August 3, 2003 04:32 PM

Deregulated media: Coming to a city near you.
Michael Powell, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, America’s chief media regulator and coincidental son of Colin Powell, has made no secret of his plans to deregulate the media industry. June 2, 2003 saw a controversial and astonishing measure: the…
Posted in Blogcritics Archives on August 1, 2003 11:19 AM

Powell Whistling into Fierce Gale
FCC chairman Michael Powell defends the controvertial media ownership ruling even as the House prepared to block it: “We are confident in our decision” FCC Chairman Michael Powell said in a written statement. “We created enforceable rules that reflect the…
Posted in Blogcritics Archives on July 23, 2003 01:31 PM

Fighting the Power
Useful summary of the FCC-Capitol Hill conflagration over media ownership rule changes by Eric Boehlert in Salon: Following the Federal Communications Commission’s controversial decision on June 2 to ease media ownership limits, supporters in Congress were so sure they had…
Posted in Blogcritics Archives on July 23, 2003 12:58 PM

FCC Kitchen Mighty Hot
Several FCC commissioners, including Chairman Powell, figure the private sector looks pretty good about now: In the Senate last week, seven Republicans joined 28 Democrats to schedule a rare “resolution of disapproval” to overturn new FCC rules that would let…
Posted in Blogcritics Archives on July 21, 2003 12:22 PM

Safire Still Railing Against the FCC
A few weeks before the FCC media ownership vote, William Safire inveighed against loosening the ownership restrictions. He’s still at it: John McCain, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, was also startled by the public reaction to the Floodgate scandal:…
Posted in Blogcritics Archives on June 18, 2003 01:14 PM

Now What?
Okay, so the FCC vote to deregulate media ownership is done – now what? Dan Gillmor has some ideas: we have to look at the FCC’s latest policy move in two additional contexts. First, consider the recent spate of mergers…
Posted in Blogcritics Archives on June 2, 2003 05:07 PM

Michael Powell of the FCC
People Suck: So while I think Powell has been misrepresented, I still think he is wrong. Posted in Blogcritics Archives on May 30, 2003 01:11 PM

Digital Radio Approved
As previewed here, the FCC approved a plan for digital radio in the US: The Federal Communications Commission voted 4-0 to adopt digital radio technology created by iBiquity Digital, a company backed by large broadcasters including ABC and Viacom. The… Posted in Blogcritics Archives on October 10, 2002 07:44 PM

FCC Leaning Against EchoStar-DirecTV Deal
Chairman Michael Powell has already expressed concerns that the deal would create significant concentration in the direct broadcast satellite business: U.S. Federal Communications Commission staff are recommending the agency block EchoStar Communications Corp.’s plans to acquire rival satellite television provider…
Posted in Blogcritics Archives on October 5, 2002 08:23 PM

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About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted, Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.
  • Like father, like son? Leaving, I mean

  • Eric Olsen

    indeed – maybe they’ll start a lobbying firm – that sucker would have some clout!

  • Michael Powell – what a tit.

    🙂 sorry,couldn’t resist. He hasn’t been very effective – unless you count raking in the big bucks for the government, effective.

  • I had the same reaction to this news as I did to Ashcroft leaving…

    good, there can’t possibly be anyone worse… can there?

    Enter Gonzales…

  • Eric Olsen

    as I said, he was okay with the tech geek side of things but way over his head with the political side of things

  • olay?
    I had no idea tech geeks preferred one type of skincare product over another…


  • Howard Stern sums up the situation quite well with:

    Thank God he’s Gone

    Stern, in a brief but fiery rant on his morning radio show, left little doubt that he’s thrilled to see Powell go.

    “Thank God he’s gone,” Stern said. “This is a great day in broadcasting.”

    Saying he was fed up with stepped-up government scrutiny, Stern announced last fall that he would leave public radio at the end of 2005 and signed a five-year, $500 million deal with Sirius Satellite Radio (up $0.29 to $5.83, Research), one of two leading broadcasters of subscription-based radio. Because satellite radio is a paid service, its programming is not subject to federal oversight.

    But then…

    “God help us with what’s next,” said Stern. “God knows who (President Bush) is going to appoint” as Powell’s successor.

  • Wow, I didn’t realize this self-righteous idiot was a Clinton appointee. Everyone keeps blaming him on Bush.


  • Let’s not forget that the next guy is going to be appointed by Bush. Do you think he/she will be any less of an indecency-freak than Powell was. This is a great chance for Bush to “clean-up” these vile airwaves really good. This is an Evangelical Christian we are dealing with here.

    No good parent wants their young child listening to Stern, or seeing Janet’s tit during the superbowl, but the lack of good parents is the big problem, not the lack of FCC enforcement. Oh and if you’re an adult, change the frigging channel if you don’t like what you see or hear. Radio is already a dying medium, due to overregulation, and monopoly ownership. I haven’t listened to music on the radio in about ten years, because it is the same ten songs over and over and over.

    I only fear that this great Internet will be next on the FCC hit list. Self regulation can work really well–just look at Blogcritics.

  • Paul – Great summation of the situation as it now stands.

    I almost fear Sen. Brownback of Kansas more than Bush or the FCC Chair. He was a major figure in pushing through the outlandish Stern fines, and I’m sure he’s now steamed about the recent ruling that satellite subscription-based radio will remain unregulated.

    Who knows what his next move will be?

    Oh, that’s right: President of the United States. He’s said to be considering a run as a true religious/cultural conservative.

  • Eric Olsen

    all makes good sense except I don’t agree overregulation has been a problem for radio: it’s been the extremely arbitrary and uneven enforcement of what i think are reasonable indecency rules that has caused the problems. The rules were there but basically not enforced so everyone ignored them, then were outraged when they started to be enforced after the Super Bowl hoohaw. Enforce the rules evenly and everyone will know where they stand.

    And it was Deregulation that allowed for the consolidation, which I agree has been the death of interesting commercial radio

  • At the risk of blowing in the wind, I change my position by agreeing with Eric regarding under- and not overregulation.

    However, regarding decency standards: I think they’re falling into the same silly category that network television is currently contending with versus cable. Decency standards in terms of language and even sexual content are largely anachronistic compared with how people think, speak, and interact in “real life.” If content should be regulated (or further enforced) it should be more along the lines of violence, which has been shown to be harmful, especially for children.

  • Eric Olsen

    you can get away with almost anything after 10pm, which I think is a reasonable barrier. Again, I think the real problem right now is no one knows exactly how the rules are going to be enforced after they were essentially ignored. I would argue that the anything goes of cable, satellite and the Internet make it MORE important to have a place people can go where there are parameters

  • I’m fine with reasonable barriers, though I think American values are a little bit strange when compared to Europe, which is much less uptight about language and sexual content yet more concerned about violence.

  • Eric Olsen

    i agree our standards for violence do not parallel those for sex and language – why do you think that’s so?

  • See some of the bloodthirsty around the blogosphere.

  • It’s an interesting question that has something to do with the uniqueness of American culture (which, unforunately, many Americans assume to be the only culture).

    At the risk of starting off a firestorm, Michael Moore touches on this theme well if at times unevenly in Bowling for Columbine. There’s something about America that is obsessed with violence, from the Old West through the modern gangster flick and sensationalist media.

    At the same time, there’s a repressive instinct to censor sex-related and human body-related content, which may stem from the culture instilled into the original colonies by Calvinists and Puritans.

  • Its funny, we are totally ass-backwards from most of the rest of the world when it comes to what is censored on TV. When I lived in Spain (ex-military), they showed hard-core porn on regular tv after midnight. Japan was very strange. All kinds of soft-core porn cartoon magazines and sexualized tv shows for all, and an obsession with hard core porn for adults. Their porn is very masochistic and violent too–very weird. But I digress. In the US, we cannot show a woman’s breast, even tastefully, even after midnight, but show all the guys getting shot in the head, or having their arms ripped off by some kind of monster that your heart desires. The funny thing is, I’m not sure who has it right??