Editor's Note: Kevin Martin was appointed as FCC Chair yesterday, March 16.Well, he's not the chair yet, but he probably will be. His appointment would continue the pattern of appointing shameless sycophants which Bush has established with such fiercely independent nominees as Condoleeza Rice and Alberto Gonzales. Martin worked for Ken Starr during the witch hunt against Clinton, and when the Florida fix was in danger of falling apart in 2000, "Martin left for Miami so quickly he didn't pack a bag. Working round the clock, he could be seen on TV peering over ballot counters."
The possibility of having a Bush rubber stamp in the position of FCC chair is bad enough. What's worse is that Bush's primary motivation for naming Martin is to throw a bone to the cultural conservatives. Specifically, Brent Bozell, the head of both the Media Research Center (MRC) and the Parents Television Council (PTC), strongly endorses Martin for the post.
Bozell is an interesting character, in that he has made an effort to break his political crusade into two, supposedly unrelated, components. The MRC is a shameful, unashamedly partisan conservative organization devoted to eradicating 'liberal bias' from the media, principally by using bluster and shoddy research to intimidate broadcasters away from airing anything which deviates from the RNC line.
The PTC embodies the 'family values' aspect of Bozell's crusade. Its members spend hours with TiVo recording and cataloging every profanity, sexual innuendo, and instance of graphic sex and violence on prime time television, eventually to be submitted to the FCC as complaints. The PTC is theoretically completely independent of the MRC. However, if Mr. Bozell's ethics are reflected in his conduct of the MRC, it's likely that the wall separating MRC and PTC has more than few holes in it. The PTC is not without its ethical problems, either. In 2002, the PTC took on professional wrestling, claiming that the histrionics of the WWE somehow contributed to the deaths of some children, including at least one murder. But the PTC wasn't prepared for the smackdown the WWE laid down on them, and they were forced to issue a lengthy apology and retraction.
Amusingly, the PTC also had a bit of trouble with an employee who charged that he was fired for praying on the job --- specifically, for Bozell's speedy recovery from a heart attack.
Now when a moralizing conservative like Bozell goes up against our immoral media (such as Rupert Murdoch's FOX empire), some interesting conflicts ensue. The Washington Post had an interesting in-depth article about PTC not long ago. But the fact is that Bozell, for all of his conflicts and sleaze, is about to wield considerable power at the FCC. Not only do PTC members account for 99.8% of the complaints filed with the FCC in the past year, Martin seems favorably disposed to heed those complaints and act on them in a big way. Furthermore, Martin does not appear to be content with simply regulating broadcast television. He has suggested that he'd like to explore broadening FCC authority to regulate satellite and cable TV as well.
So we are likely looking at an FCC chair with ambitions of expanding his authority, who gives his unquestioning allegiance to Bush, and who likes what he hears from the ethically-challenged 'family values' Bozell who wants to eradicate any traces of liberalism from the media. The next four years will be trying ones for the First Amendment.
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