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Laissez-faire Republican is battling the Comcast-NBC deal

As head of the FCC, Kevin Martin fought to loosen regulations. Now he’s practicing law in the private sector, and his clients are groups that oppose the media merger.

April 27, 2010|By Joe Flint, Los Angeles Times

When asked to respond to the CWA allegation, Comcast cited a blog post by Executive Vice President David Cohen. "The CWA's greatest objection to Comcast is that thousands of our employees voted to decertify the union after we acquired AT&T's cable properties in 2002," Cohen wrote on the Comcast website.

Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice declined to comment on Martin, but denied the accusations made by NCAAOM.

"Comcast distributes a variety of minority- and/or independently owned channels," she said, citing as examples the company's carriage agreements with independent channels such as the Black Television News Channel and the Africa Channel. Comcast also carries and owns a stake in TV One, a cable network aimed at African Americans.

While Martin adopted a deregulatory stance towards much of the media industry when he was at the FCC, he was known for a hard line when it came to cable. He advocated new regulations for the industry, including a push to get cable operators to offer channels on an individual or a la carte basis rather than in bundles. Many of those efforts did not succeed.

George Kohl, a senior director of the CWA, acknowledges that on the surface, the pairing of the Republican Martin with a left-leaning union is "an odd relationship."

Kohl said the association and Martin have found common ground on issues regarding the Internet and open access. Indeed, it was the FCC under Martin's leadership that that took Comcast to court charging that it discriminated against customers who used BitTorrent technology to download videos. This month, an appeals court ruled in favor of Comcast, saying the FCC had overstepped its authority because it does not have oversight over the regulation of Internet traffic.

"He did a lot of things as chairman that didn't seem very Republican," said John Hane, a communications lawyer with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

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