Kevin Martin will step down from FCC

Chairman had often contentious relationship with media

NEW YORK -- FCC chairman Kevin Martin has thrown in the towel, announcing his resignation as of Tuesday, when Barack Obama is set to take over the White House.

The news came just days after word leaked that the President-elect was looking to tap former IAC executive and FCC counsel Julius Genachowski as head of the regulatory agency.

During his eight years at the FCC and especially his four years as chairman, Martin had an often contentious relationship with parts of the media, entertainment and telecom industries. The FCC has stepped up the investigation of indecency cases against broadcasters under his leadership.

Some feared Martin would choose to remain as a regular commissioner for a while, which could have led to friction with the future chairman.

"Given Martin's comments last week at CES, there had been increased concern that he might try to stick around as a commissioner post-inauguration," Pali Research analyst Richard Greenfield said.

Martin had criticized the Obama transition team's suggestion that the digital TV switchover deadline be pushed back from Feb. 17.

Greenfield said the departure of Martin and another FCC commissioner should move ahead Time Warner's long-delayed separation of Time Warner Cable.

Announced in May, the split originally was expected to close by the end of 2008. TW executives recently have predicted a decision by the end of March, but there had been speculation about a further delay because Martin had not scheduled a vote.

"We expect a three-person FCC to clear the transaction in February 2009, with a closing of the split in March," Greenfield said.

Martin will become a senior fellow at the Aspen Institute in Washington. That makes him the fourth consecutive FCC chair to accept this fellowship after his tenure.

In other regulatory news, the WGA East urged the Obama administration and Congress to increase funding for public broadcasting, especially amid a recession that has led to layoffs and hiring freezes.

In other regulatory news Thursday, the WGA East urged the incoming Obama administration and Congress to increase funding for public broadcasting, especially amid a recession that has led to layoffs and hiring freezes.

With hundreds of the union's members writing and producing programs for public television, including "Frontline," "Nova" and "Sesame Street," the group said more funding is important for its members, but also the U.S. economy and media landscape overall.

"At this critical juncture in our nation's history, adequate funding for public broadcasting is more important than ever," WGAE president Michael Winship said. "This will help stimulate the economy as well as deepen public discourse about such central issues of our time as climate change, globalization, diversity and human rights."

The WGAE highlighted that the U.S. spends less on public broadcasting than other nations. Great Britain and Germany spend more than $80 per capita on public broadcasting annually, Canada and Australia $28 per capita, but the U.S. spends only $1.70, it said.
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