McDowell Becomes FCC Member

Todd Shields

MAY 29, 2006 -

The U.S. Senate on Friday confirmed Republican Robert McDowell to be a member of the Federal Communications Commission, giving FCC Chair Kevin Martin his first working majority.

With McDowell as a third Republican member of the agency, Martin can more aggressively pursue plans that include pressuring cable companies to offer channels à la carte, and liberalizing media ownership rules. The agency has been at a two-to-two partisan deadlock for most of the time since Martin took office in March 2005.

McDowell, a telephone association executive, cleared the Senate without a recorded vote under a procedure that can be stopped by a single member’s objection.

McDowell is senior vp and assistant general counsel to Comptel, which represents smaller telephone companies and other competitors to the big Bell legacy firms.

Martin is eager to loosen the rule barring common ownership of daily newspapers and nearby broadcast stations.

He also has said the commission may revisit whether to require cable operators to carry more than one digital TV channel offered by broadcasters. Martin was the sole dissenting vote in February 2005 when the FCC decided to require carriage of just one digital channel.

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