Saturday, January 22, 2005

WSJ gets the scoop on Powell

Apparently the Wall Street Journal got in first with the scoop on Michael Powell's intention to resign from the FCC in March (article requires subscription). By last night everone was talking about it - including Powell himself, who I saw being interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on CNN. Stephen Labatton in the NYT notes that Powell rolled back regulation of all the media industries, promoting private over public control. "But on his watch the F.C.C. also enforced stringent decency standards, imposing hefty fines on television and radio broadcasters." Powell had a very jaundiced view of what media regulation (and deregulation) was about. Powell's term was to run till 2007 but he's leaving early. The BBC notes that Powell "has not always seen eye to eye with other members of the FCC." (You can say that again - I doubt if Powell is on Jonathan Adelstein's or Michael Copps' party guest list.) The BBC piece also notes that
    Howard Stern, the controversial US "shock jock" DJ, welcomed Mr Powell's departure, according to Bloomberg TV, as he felt the indecency crackdown limited freedom of expression. Mr Stern was dropped by six stations owned by media giant Clear Channel in 2004 after it had to pay the Federal Communications Commission $1.75m (£950,000), over breaches of indecency laws.

Stern has of course been signed up by Sirius satellite radio, where he will move in 2006, and where he will be free from FCC interference (as Powell himself accepted in his Wolf Blitzer piece last night). In the meantime he'll see out his contract with Viacom for terrestrial radio, where he'll stay for another year - and have to watch his language! I don't think Powell's departure is going to change that.


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