NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: FOX on top of a Bush administration favorite now on the way out. Michael Powell (search) is calling it quits at the FCC, but not before telling us why first.
Howard Stern (search) is happy to see him go, but not scores of fans who say that Michael Powell did more to revolutionize communications in this country than Howard Stern or certainly any other FCC honcho in the history of communications. With us now to set the record straight, media watchdog, Michael Powell, the man who is now leaving the FCC as chairman.
Mr. Chairman, why are you doing this?
MICHAEL POWELL, FCC CHAIRMAN: Hi, Neil. How are you?
CAVUTO: I'm fine, sir.
POWELL: Well, really just two reasons. I think it's really important that when you take on a government job, you set out a clear vision of what you want to accomplish, and you measure yourself by it. When you think you have largely accomplished what you set out to do, you should move on, and let someone else take the reins. And I have done a lot of soul-searching about that. The time seemed natural. And so I decided that it was a good opportunity to move on and explore new challenges.
CAVUTO: So this had nothing to do with your dad calling it quits at State and you just said, ah, the heck with it, I'm out of here, too?
POWELL: No. I got into government long before he came back. And so no, we don't coordinate those things at all.
CAVUTO: Did it have anything to do with the pressure you faced at the FCC and the grief that you got from a lot of shock jocks from across this country, including Howard Stern?
POWELL: Not at all, actually. You know, one of the things I have come to learn living in this city and being a public policy official is if you intend to lead with a bold vision and tackle tough and difficult issues, you better have a thick skin. You better be prepared to be criticized. And you had better be prepared to work hard, make your best judgments and make your peace with that. And you know, in the entire eight years that I have been at the FCC, I have been through lots of tough issues, lots of praise, lots of criticism, but always motivated first and foremost by trying to do what in my best judgment was best for the American people.
CAVUTO: You always had a good stiff upper lip, Mr. Chairman, but did it bug you when you heard this from Howard Stern this morning, I think we have a clip where he was kind of celebrating your departure. Let's listen in.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
HOWARD STERN, RADIO HOST: Michael Powell resigning is a great thing, because this guy did not deserve the job in the first place. He was appointed because of his father. Michael Powell was no more qualified, perhaps less qualified than the other guys sitting on the FCC, and had no right to be there.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
CAVUTO: What do you make of that?
POWELL: I think it's comical. All you have got to do is look at my resume, and you tell me if I'm not qualified. You know, I was at the Federal Communications Commission long before my father was in the Bush administration. I was chief of staff of the antitrust division. I was a soldier for three years, commanded military units, went to law school, served in one of the highest courts in the United States. I don't have to defend my qualifications to a shock jock. I don't know what the qualifications are to be a shock jock, but I'm proud of my qualifications to be a commissioner.
CAVUTO: Well, that's a good point, Mr. Chairman, because people don't realize that you were coming on to this commission long before there was a President Bush in town. But let me talk a little bit about what you think your message is leaving. Many people say that you broke down the barriers in communications, and brought on this new era of sort of boundless devices for wireless devices. How would you describe it?
POWELL: Well, I think you described it beautifully. And I'm proud to hear you say it that way. If I tried to capture in a nutshell, we tried to do one thing, which was to get the law right in a way that would stimulate innovative technology and put more power into the hands of consumers. And I think all you have to do is walk into an electronics store today and look at a TiVo or buy an iPod, or look at some of the phones that are available today, and you will see the vision coming into fruition.
If you look at the Internet and the role that it played in the election and the political campaign, if you look at the fact that an Internet blogger can bring challenge to a network as formidable as CBS, you realize that more and more democratization of technology is leading to strong consumer value and that's what we're most proud of. And that's what we really wanted to focus our agenda on.
CAVUTO: Are your surprised though that many on Capitol Hill wanted to rein in your revolutionizing, including your deal to lift the caps on a lot of media companies who own x-number of newspapers and/or radio and/or TV stations in a given market, you wanted to let that be part of the past, and they wouldn't let you do that?
POWELL: It's interesting. To be accurate, the decision that Congress made was to raise the cap just slightly less than what we had proposed raising. So Congress agreed that the caps needed to be liberalized. They just liberalized it slightly less than we did. That's one proceeding of thousands of proceedings I have done in my career. We ultimately work for the United States Congress. We're implementing its statutes. And if it changes its mind and wants to take the law and the country in a different direction, it's my responsibility to simply respect that and execute their wishes, and not get my hands wrung up about whether my view over the wishes of the 536 members of that body are the ones that should be paramount.
CAVUTO: Who was more of a paramount pain in the butt for you, Janet Jackson or Howard Stern?
POWELL: To be honest with you, neither of them. You know, they are great entertainers. I think they are very savvy businessman and woman. You know, I only enforce the laws that I am duty-bound to enforce. And sometimes that crosses paths with people like them, personalities, sometimes it doesn't.
CAVUTO: But the reason why I mention it is that Howard Stern felt that you were on a witch hunt and deliberately going after him and that you were part of this sort of religious right that was trying to make everything squeaky clean on the airwaves. Were you?
POWELL: It's fortunate that facts don't get in the way of his position. You know, we have never made a crusade of Howard Stern. I think Howard Stern has probably mentioned my name thousands of times more than it's ever been uttered by my commission at the FCC. I think in the entire four years I have been there, there have been only two fines against the Howard Stern program. We certainly have gone after others, equally, if not more. We enforce where there are complaints against programs. But Howard is a smart businessman, and to be persecuted is a good way to sell time.
CAVUTO: Michael Powell, FCC chairman, we wish you well, sir.
POWELL: Thank you, sir.
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