Michael Powell, Chairman of the FCC

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, September 24, 2003, that was edited for clarity.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, this is one of those murky regulatory issues that actually involves potentially, well, several government agencies, more likely the FTC than the FCC, that is the Federal Trade Commission over the Federal Communications Commission, even though that’s not what a judge had to say.

The latter’s boss is with us right now. I’m talking about Michael Powell, the chairman of the FCC. He’s in Washington.

Chairman, thank you for coming.


CAVUTO: The judge ruled in this case, Chairman, that it’s the FCC not the FTC that has the authority to deal in these issues. Is he right?

POWELL: Well, he’s only partially right about that. I think he’s wrong in his bottom line.

But, you know, if you remember, the FTC and the FCC promulgated rules to work in partnership to do this, and what he’s referring to is that the Congress in a statute many years ago vested the FCC with substantial responsibility in this area, and we have complete jurisdiction with respect to telephones and telemarketers under that area.

And we understood that all along in working with Chairman Murris to make sure that we had a companion set of rules that would provide some redundancy to ensure that ultimately the Do Not Call database would be in existence, and I’m confident it will be restored by one course or the other.

CAVUTO: So is that your way of saying that if, indeed, it did fall back exclusively in your jurisdiction, you would essentially rule the way the FTC did?

POWELL: Absolutely. I think we’ve been partners with them on trying to do this for the American people.

The only issue that separates us is that the database is literally being funded and administered by the FTC, and, if the FCC were the only player in town, you know, that funding and those administrative mechanisms would somehow have to be transferred to us.

But I don’t think it’s going to come to that. I think our legislators and our administration are going to work very, very quickly to make sure that jurisdiction’s properly vested.

CAVUTO: Chairman, as you know, the telemarketers say that they have their own list, that if people don’t want to be called, you go up on their list, you don’t have to do it by government edict or FTC edict or FCC edict. What do you say?

POWELL: Well, I think the people are never wrong, and, when you did this, you got an enormous response from the American public that has been crying out for one-stop shopping in the ability to stop these calls, and I think that that...

Many years, we’ve tried to have company-specific lists, which people have promised us would be an adequate remedy for consumers and ultimately proved not to be. I think that’s why this database, as your reporter said, is wildly popular.

CAVUTO: Do you think now that, on a separate issue, sir, the fact that so many in Congress -- and, recently, in a vote in the Senate -- have torpedoed your move to expand broadcast ownership -- is it a dead deal now? How would you look at it?

POWELL: Well, I don’t know what you mean by a dead deal. No, it’s not. I think it’s important to clarify for the American people Congress hasn’t torpedoed the FCC rules. The rules continue to be in effect.

The Senate has acted on one provision. It takes both Houses of Congress and a signature by the president of the United States before you have a law, and, as we sit here today, no laws have been passed changing in form or content the FCC’s very thoughtful choices.

CAVUTO: And we should add, too, Chairman, that the vote was such that, if the president were to veto this whole issue, the possibility of overriding him is slim, so you might win anyway, right?

POWELL: It’s possible. You know, the vote in the Senate was a much closer than a lot of people thought.

CAVUTO: That’s right.

POWELL: Forty people weren’t willing to support overturning the FCC rules. That’s a veto-proof majority. It shows...

CAVUTO: But a lot of the presidential candidates weren’t there, right?

POWELL: Even if you added them -- there was another senator whose son had passed away who probably would have voted with us who also wasn’t there.

The bottom line is the 40 is still magic, even if it had gone up to 60 on the other side, and I think it’s also important that so far the House leadership and many in the House have said they have no interest in this provision.

And, by the way, that’s 435 of the 535 legislators of the United States. The House represents a bigger cross-section of the American public, has many more members, and, if they have no interest in taking it up, the matter will be dead.

CAVUTO: The president in a recent interview with our Brit Hume seemed to stand by you. I wonder if we can just run a clip of that. Listen to this, sir.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... took a long, deliberative look in a lengthy process about what was fair or not fair, and we supported his actions.


CAVUTO: All right. He’s talking about the broadcast expansion rules.

Now you, obviously, seem to be in good standing with the president, but there is all this talk, Chairman, that you are contemplating quitting. Are you?

POWELL: Absolutely not. I issued a statement just last night to try to stop the swirl, and I can’t say it any more directly than I’ll say it to you right now. I love my job. I love what we’re doing. I think there’s an important amount of work ahead for the American people, and I have absolutely no intention of stepping down. And I’m going to serve throughout this president’s administration.

CAVUTO: All right. This president’s term?

POWELL: This president’s term, administration, in my mind, are the same thing.

CAVUTO: If he were reelected, would you continue to serve?

POWELL: I might very well, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. That’s a good year off, and we’ll see, you know, where I am personally, where the commission is, and where the president’s interests lie.

CAVUTO: Now it’s possible, as we said, Chairman, the way things will work out in the House and/or Senate will ultimately come around to your thinking anyway but that you will get what that 3-to-2 vote said sometime back and that you will be vindicated.

But, in the meantime, you’ve been pilloried in the press. How do you feel about that?

POWELL: Well, you know, I kind of giggle about it because I think when I came to serve in public policy, I thought my feelings should be irrelevant. I’m there to do a job for the American public and for the administration, and we try to do it the best we know how.

The most you can say about this debate is it’s a heated policy disagreement. You know, we haven’t done anything unethical, we haven’t done anything immoral, we have nothing to be ashamed of in making our best judgment. I’m proud of it, I’ve been over it a hundred times, and I stick by it.

You’ll find that I never personalize policy. I have never said an ill thing about anyone in the course of my debate about the rules. I think the only thing that’s important for the American people is what are the right set of rules that protect their interests.

If you happen to believe substantively our judgment is not the right one, I would disagree with you, but a fair opinion, and I think it’s your obligation to show a superior one, not attack the person or the messenger or the hundreds of men and women in the bureau who spent 24 months of their life working to make that judgment.

CAVUTO: Chairman Powell, thank you very much. Good seeing you again.

POWELL: Thank you.

CAVUTO: Michael Powell, the man who runs the FCC.

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