Martin seeking to unclog FCC


WASHINGTON -- FCC chairman Kevin Martin has scheduled a vote for Thursday on a string of policy decisions as he attempts to break a regulatory logjam at the commission.

A released "sunshine" notice includes 13 items, ranging from an approval of the sale of several Disney-owned radio stations to Citadel Broadcasting Corp. to the regulatory classification of wireless broadband services.

By including so many items on the agenda, Martin forces them to a vote, an action that could help him in his battles with Congress. This week, he faced pointed questions from lawmakers who questioned the way he has been running the agency.

"It's a way to get the Democrats (on the commission) to vote," one knowledgeable source said Thursday.

Republicans on the commission have been accusing Democrats of gumming up the works by refusing to vote on policy changes. Democrats contend that they are just trying to get the GOP majority to pay attention to consumers' needs. By law, the five-member commission must include two members who are not of the party holding the White House.

Included among the items on Martin's notice is the approval of the sale of 22 ABC radio stations to Citadel. The deal, which has been valued at $2.7 billion, does not include the five ESPN radio stations the company owns or Radio Disney.

Also included on the agenda is a policy that will categorize wirelesses Internet services as an "information service." The classification puts a light regulatory touch on the service, allowing it to avoid having to comply with regulations requiring companies to open up their networks to competing providers.

The commission is also scheduled to vote on final rules for digital radio service and rules setting contract terms for video services in apartment buildings and other multifamily dwellings. In addition, the commission has teed up its investigation into broadband industry practices.

While there are a baker's dozen items on the agenda, some could be removed if commissioners object, or they could be disposed of by winning approval from each individual commissioner on "circulation."