Friday, October 5, 2007

FCC: Ratted out!


In the magical land known as Washington, D.C., the dreaded (to some) General Accounting Office revealed that the hackery known as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been tipping off certain key word – certain companies and trade groups to upcoming FCC votes, which afforded the favored inside information so they could get their lobbying efforts organized.

The FCC violating its own rules? Who would’ve thought?

What remains a mystery is who ratted out the FCC to Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and why?

Knowing the players involved you have to believe that most of this iceberg is still underwater.

The GAO report didn’t identify the companies or groups receiving the inside information from the FCC.

The account is the result of Rep. Markey’s review of rulemaking procedures. Four case studies from 2002 to 2006 had the FCC breaching confidentiality of its pre-vote procedures and that several businesses and groups were tipped off to forthcoming votes by the Commission.

Let’s see who the captain of the gravy train was during this time frame?

Actually, there were two.

Former FCC Chairman Michael Powell and current Chairman Kevin Martin.

Martin replaced Michael Powell, son of Colin, as FCC Chairman. Powell was given the bum’s rush – not for his endless bumbling and ineptness at the FCC – but after he was exposed for being wined, dined, and flown around the world in purported junkets courtesy of leading special interests groups and their lobbyists.

Martin was nominated and sworn to a GOP seat on the FCC by President George W. Bush in July, 2001. In 2005, Bush designated him Chairman of Commission and was sworn in on March, 2005. He was re-nominated for a second term by Bush in April, 2006.

Kevin Martin, a true liegeman to his Commander in-Chief.

What’s on his resume?

Despite his clueless appearance, he’s no Sugarfoot.

Before joining the FCC, he was a Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy; served on the Bush-Cheney Transition Team, and was Deputy General Counsel for the Bush campaign.

Prior to his entry into the Bushdom, he learned the FCC tricks of the trade as an advisor to FCC Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth, whose term ended in June, 2000.

Furchgott-Roth. Gotta love the stories behind those hyphenated names, but I digress.

Furchtgott-Roth was a leading hack….er… advocate for broadcast deregulation and reducing the regulatory authority of the FCC. He also opposed the FCC's right to conduct competitive analysis of mergers before approving license transfers. He believes in trusting your fellow man as long as you own him or he owns you.

Martin also served in the Office of the Independent Counsel and was an associate at the Wiley, Rein & Fielding.

Stop here for a moment so we can review the tangled web of players in this firm.

Richard E. Wiley’s a former Chairman of the FCC. As you read this he’s working on the pending XM-Sirius merger. He’s also been lead counsel in the AT&T-BellSouth and Comcast-Time Warner-Adelphia mergers, and has been counsel on the CBS mergers with Viacom and Westinghouse, just to name a few.

Bert Rein was a former director of U.S. Chamber of Commerce and was actively involved in Richard Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign and was a member of President Ronald Reagan’s transition team.

Freddie Fielding was a former council to Reagan from 1981 through 1986 but left the firm in February of this year to become a counselor to – you guessed right - George W. Bush.

What a small world and it gets even smaller.

Wiley, Rein & Fiedling was the law firm that filed an appeal with the FCC in October, 2006 to halt an investigation of 77 TV stations that were found to have aired VNR’s – video news releases – without disclosure, calling it "an unprecedented regulatory intrusion into newsroom operations."

VNRs are news segments created by ad agencies, PR firms, corporations, and even government agencies, which are provided at no cost to TV stations' news departments for the sole purpose of influencing public opinion or promoting commercial products and services.

VNRs, also known as “fake news,” provide fill for newscasts. Often, decisions are made to run VNRs on a local newscast originate at a corporate level and it’s rarely revealed to the viewer that the piece was produced by an influence peddler.

When you hear about studies that determine things like the discovery of toxic chemical landfills being linked to preventing tooth decay or why increasing the troop numbers for Iraqi war is beneficial to our country – that’s a VNR. Some are subtle enough to fool even the harshest critics.

You would be correct in saying that when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics did it on their media we called it propaganda.

The definition of the legal system in Washington: The more money you pony up, the more your rights get protected – and you get to pick your rights.

It also shows that no matter who’s occupying the oval office, the GOP still preserves its control of certain government agencies and commissions. Let’s not forget that the 1996 Telecommunications Bill was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton.

Democrat money rents; Republican money buys.

There are so many more stories to tell and dots to connect, which, predictably, appear to originate from the Bush White House, but enough history for one day.

The problem isn't that this administration repeatedly shoots itself in the foot. The problem is that it has too many feet.

You’re Kevin Martin and you’ve been caught aiding and abetting.

The U.S. Criminal Code considers that a federal crime: (a) Whoever aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures the commission of an offense, is punishable as a principal and (b) Whoever willfully causes an act to be done, which if directly performed by him or another would be an offense, is punishable as a principal.

Seven years ago the FCC voted to penalize lobbyists who leaked confidential agency information after classified information on high-profile mergers were leaked to the public. An unidentified FCC staffer allegedly was fired the same year for leaking FCC documents, which reviewed the AOL-Time Warner merger.

Wonder how Kevin’ll get out this one?

Who’ll fall on their sword?

Who’s the cat and who’s the mouse?

Here’s a rare case of a federal agency – or someone in it - committing a federal crime. Maybe one negates the other?

The real question is how this will play out in public. So far, it’s a non-story. Outside of a L.A. Times piece on Wednesday, there’s been no media coverage of this scandal.

Read the L.A. Times coverage here:,1,2381033

And do the civilians really care?

You’d believe that with the cost and efficiency – or lack thereof – of cable TV, high speed Internet (where many now have to pay a premium for a higher speed service), phone service, and the current state of radio and TV that its enough for the American public to rally and demand accountability and change from the rubber stampers at the FCC.

Or will apathy reign as portrayed by Phil Ochs late sixties song, And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody/Outside of a small circle of friends.

Considering that Halliburton’s still in business, maybe this one will just go away, too.

Stay tuned.


Leslie Antonoff said...

As far as I know this story was not covered in Washington, where I live. I am an avid news junkie and this one was not on my radar. Thanks for bringing my attention to it.

This is Washington. Everyone will point fingers at one another and get nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

Maybe some clerk will get blamed and fired.

Anonymous said...

Here's the link:

No wonder, HD/IBOC was approved for our jamming pleasure - iBiquity/NAB/HD Alliance forced the FCC, under the sheets.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty obvious to me why radio, TV and Broadband provider home pages have not mentioned this story. They don't want the FCC to give them a hard time when it comes to license renewals.

Ain't that America.

Anonymous said...

This is the first I have heard of this tho I am not surprised. Tangled web indeed! You illustrated their game plan well. You would think this would be a "natural" for newspapers and web sites not owned by media companies. Why did only the L.A. Times cover this? I think it has to be considered as a major Washington scandal. Radio, telephony - they are all federally licensed by the FCC. Aiding and abetting sounds right to me.

Digger said...

Nothing in This is the first I have read of this anywhere. What we feared is true. This is a Clear Channel-Viacom world which they allow us to live in.

Anonymous said...

There is conflict of interest all over this one! Kevin Martin is one shrewd guy and he avoided the dumb mistakes of Michael Powell.

He knows where all the bodies are buried and what gravediggers to tell it to.

I hope there is an investigation. Like you I think it is just the tip of the iceburg.

FCK the FCC said...

The rat was a disgruntled employee. That is how it usually starts. It was someone that did most of the leg work for the FCC and got no thanks in return.

Martin would not win any personality contests.

Anonymous said...

If a Democrat wins the White House I believe he or she can replace the chairman position. I think Kevin Martin would stay on as a Republican member of the FCC unless Mackey can prove the backroom deals and illegal notifications at the FCC.

Palolo lolo said...

Don't forget his wife Cathy. She's deeply involved in Mr. Cheney's
office. It gets even deeper.

Anonymous said...

How about the one that came down the pike this afternoon about the FCC investigating itself and finding that it did nothing wrong three years ago when Sen. Barbara Boxter uncovered portions of unreleased reports on TV localism and the state of radio?

They admitted that non-federal employees that worked on the reports did not have to be interviewed and they weren't.

Considering the gaping holes in the report it was released anyway and Kevin Martin was pleased to announce that no wrong doing could be found.

Now the USA is back in the USSR.

You can read the report here: article/CA6487597.html

employed by a "c" said...

those in the terrestrial radio business who have to make a living at it have become apathetic. i know, i'm one.

the news of the fcc tipping off certain media companies (did three or four of them start with the letter c?) was of no surprise. it did not surprise me that your best blog yet received only limited response.

apathy is a byproduct of surrender. i keep my head down, do my job and my employers know it and want it that way.

what the dummies don't understand is that their kingdom has already crumbled. they can't afford to operate what they have.

thank you for your new blog. though i spend much of my time in apathy, your belief in new alternates to terrestrial radio provides hope in the future for those that still believe in creativity.