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Broadcast Ownership Regulation in a Border Era: An Analysis of how the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is Shaping the Debate on Broadcast Ownership Limits
Unformatted Document Text:  6 rhetorically, “does FCC Chairman Michael Powell really want a serious debate on this issue or not,” which calls into question the motives of the top FCC official in shaping the debate on broadcast ownership rules (Center for Digital Democracy, 2002b). Chairman Powell’s “Mesmerizing Ambiguity” Michael Powell’s stewardship of the FCC has been characterized as one of “mesmerizing ambiguity” because of his seemingly uncaring and flippant tone regarding long-standing communication policy concerns (Lemann, 2002). For instance, Powell has mocked the so-called “digital divide” (between information haves and have-nots) by likening it to a “Mercedes divide,” adding, “I’d like one, but I can’t afford it” (Ahrens, 2001, p. C1). Although, owning a new Mercedes may be financially conceivable for an FCC Chairman with a six-digit salary, lack of access to a viable information infrastructure for the economic underclass in society is, perhaps, a more serious concern. Similarly, Powell has derided the notion of the “public interest”, a concept that undergirds the FCC’s authority to regulate the broadcasting industry, as a mythic “angel of the public interest” (Wall Street Journal, 2002, p. A1). Powell claims that although he once waited for a visit from the angel of public interest, “she did not come” (Wall Street Journal, 2002, p. A1). Accordingly, under Powell’s stewardship, any serious debate within the FCC over issues localism, diversity, and competition in broadcasting may be unlikely. At the very least, such dialogue is uncertain. Chairman Powell replaced former FCC Chairman William Kennard after George W. Bush took office in 2001. He is joined on the commission by two other Republicans, Kathleen Abernathy and Kevin Martin, both of whom are Bush appointees. Together, the trio has generally favored deregulation of the communication industries and holds the majority of votes in the five-person FCC. According to U.S. law, no more than three members of the commission

Authors: Blevins, Jeffrey. and Brown, Duncan.
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rhetorically, “does FCC Chairman Michael Powell really want a serious debate on this issue or
not,” which calls into question the motives of the top FCC official in shaping the debate on
broadcast ownership rules (Center for Digital Democracy, 2002b).
Chairman Powell’s “Mesmerizing Ambiguity”
Michael Powell’s stewardship of the FCC has been characterized as one of “mesmerizing
ambiguity” because of his seemingly uncaring and flippant tone regarding long-standing
communication policy concerns (Lemann, 2002). For instance, Powell has mocked the so-called
“digital divide” (between information haves and have-nots) by likening it to a “Mercedes
divide,” adding, “I’d like one, but I can’t afford it” (Ahrens, 2001, p. C1). Although, owning a
new Mercedes may be financially conceivable for an FCC Chairman with a six-digit salary, lack
of access to a viable information infrastructure for the economic underclass in society is,
perhaps, a more serious concern. Similarly, Powell has derided the notion of the “public
interest”, a concept that undergirds the FCC’s authority to regulate the broadcasting industry, as
a mythic “angel of the public interest” (Wall Street Journal, 2002, p. A1). Powell claims that
although he once waited for a visit from the angel of public interest, “she did not come” (Wall
Street Journal, 2002, p. A1). Accordingly, under Powell’s stewardship, any serious debate
within the FCC over issues localism, diversity, and competition in broadcasting may be unlikely.
At the very least, such dialogue is uncertain.
Chairman Powell replaced former FCC Chairman William Kennard after George W.
Bush took office in 2001. He is joined on the commission by two other Republicans, Kathleen
Abernathy and Kevin Martin, both of whom are Bush appointees. Together, the trio has
generally favored deregulation of the communication industries and holds the majority of votes
in the five-person FCC. According to U.S. law, no more than three members of the commission


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