Looking for change at the FCC
Jan 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Chriss Scherer
If you don't do your job well or even worse you break the rules to get your way, chances are you won't keep that job very long. You probably don't know many people like that. For the most part, people try to do the right thing and do it well. However, there are those who expend a great effort to dupe and scheme to keep their jobs rather than just do a good job in the first place.
When you observe someone taking advantage of a job situation, it's usually a matter of time before that person gets his due. It's inconceivable to think that someone could get away with poor management practices, suppressing information important to a task, and a general disregard for proper business practices. But someone did, and he kept his job. How is this possible?
I'm talking about FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, if you haven't already guessed. A majority staff report prepared for the House's Committee on Energy and Commerce titled Deception and Distrust: The Federal Communications Commission Under Chairman Kevin J. Martin was prepared to address the agency leader's poor performance. The report charges that Martin manipulated, withheld or suppressed data, reports or information in multiple instances; Commission matters were not handled in an open and transparent way; the Commission failed in some of its responsibilities (only some?); Martin's methods have created distrust among all the commissioners; and Commission staff has not been effectively managed.
These are not small shortcomings. It's not like he was always 15 minutes late for work. These are charges of misconduct. Imagine if you did the same in your job. If you were charged with similar errors you would be packing your office long before any report could be filed.
I had heard about the investigation several months ago, and was told it would likely lead to Congressional hearings. Instead, we see a 100-page report. Carrying even less weight, the report was not released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee itself, the committee that oversees the FCC.
And now that Martin effectively has a few days left until a new commissioner is appointed, he's just going to leave without having to answer for the abuses of his office.
So Martin got away with it. But perhaps the effort is not a total loss. The incoming FCC chairman (still uncertain when this issue was sent to the printer) will have some clear examples of how things should not be done.
What else can we expect to come of this? I think we can be more assured that facts will see the light of day instead of being suppressed when FCC rulings are issued (even if the technical facts are still ignored by non-technical commissioners). Perhaps the backlog of actions and applications that have been sitting at the Commission will finally see some activity.
We're due for a chairman who can lead the FCC and make real progress. I expected great things from Michael Powell, who was just OK in the end. I didn't know what to expect from Kevin Martin when he took over, but we have our answer now. Who's the next chairman? Julius Genachowski, Don Gips, Larry Strickling and Blair Levin are some of the names I have heard.
The new chairman will step in just in time for the analog TV shutoff. That alone might cause some headaches, but I expect it will be back to legitimate business shortly thereafter.
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