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Martin Departs as Obama Arrives

'The American people are now reaping the rewards of convergence and the broadband revolution'

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has ended speculation about when he intends to leave the commission; he announced his resignation, effective Jan. 20.

Radio broadcasters will remember Martin’s tenure as one under which indecency enforcement for short expletive utterances increased, payola was investigated, resulting in four radio companies signing consent decrees, and the satellite radio merger was approved. Aspects of updating EAS to enter the digital age, as well as newly-defining broadcast localism, were rulemakings begun under Martin that remain pending for the new chairman. Martin said at CES he believes the Obama administration will soon name the new chairman. Rumors continue to be floated this week that Julius Genachowski, chief counsel under former FCC chairman Reed Hunt, will get the nod. Genachowski, high-tech policy veteran and venture capitalist, has served as the president-elect’s top tech advisor and was a classmate of Obama’s at Harvard Law School.

In his resignation letter to President Bush, Martin wrote that he had served at the agency for eight years, the last four as chairman. “During this period, we have seen a telecommunications industry undergoing rapid and unprecedented change. As a result of the market-oriented and consumer-focused policies we have pursued, the American people are now reaping the rewards of convergence and the broadband revolution including new and more innovative technologies and services at ever-declining prices.”

Martin will become a senior fellow at the Washington-based Aspen Institute.

Commenting on Martin’s impending departure, NAB President/CEO David Rehr stated that the FCC chairman’s job is “one of the most difficult in Washington.” Rehr said he respects Martin’s “intellect and his belief in the lifeline role played by local broadcasters.”