Bush Taps FCC Member to Lead Agency

President Bush has chosen Kevin Martin (search), a member of the Federal Communications Commission (search), to head the agency that has recently gained notoriety for clamping down on indecency in broadcasting.

Martin, who has been an FCC commissioner since 2001, replaces Michael Powell (search) as chairman. Powell, son of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, had announced in January that he was leaving this month after four years in the top post.

The White House was to officially announce Martin's appointment later Wednesday, said an FCC official who declined to be named ahead of the announcement.

The FCC has taken on an increasingly critical role in the life of America with the explosive growth in the telecommunications industry.

Since he is already an FCC commissioner, Martin's promotion to chairman, which had been widely expected, does not need Senate confirmation.

Martin, a Republican, was born in Charlotte, N.C. He worked at the White House for Bush as an economic adviser and served as a deputy general counsel on Bush's first campaign. His wife, Catherine, is a special assistant to the president on economic policy and previously worked as an adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.

His nomination is subject to Senate confirmation.

As chairman, Martin would lead an agency that regulates phone, broadcast, Internet and other telecommunications (search) services. Among the issues the agency will likely tackle in the near future are the digital TV transition; another stab at revising media ownership rules; whether to approve a spate of phone industry mega-mergers; and how to regulate Internet phone calls.

But the agency has been prominent in the public's mind recently for tougher enforcement of the indecency guidelines that free, over-the-air radio and TV stations must follow.

It probably was best known for the fine it levied in connection with the so-called "wardrobe malfunctions" involving entertainer Janet Jackson at the 2004 Super Bowl and for actions taken against bawdy radio shows and other programming deemed to racy for broadcast.

Martin and Powell have not always seen eye to eye, most notably in 2003 when Martin allied with the FCC's two Democrats on a key vote over phone competition rules.

Powell's last FCC meeting was last week, and he has said he wanted to clear out of his office by Friday.

The White House must still nominate a commissioner to the five-member FCC, which has under the current political structure has three Republican slots and two Democratic ones. The Senate would have to approve of that nomination as well.

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said Wednesday he has recommended his former aide, Earl Comstock to the White House for the open slot.

Assistant Commerce Secretary Michael Gallagher -- who is also head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (search) -- was considered another possibility for FCC chief and might still be considered to become the third Republican commissioner.

Gallagher already is one of Bush's top advisers on telecommunications policy.

Other names that have been mentioned include former Texas utilities regulator Rebecca Armendariz Klein and Pat Wood, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (search).