Martin, who has been an FCC commissioner since 2001, replaces Michael Powell, who is stepping down this month after four years in the top post.
“I am deeply honored to have been designated as the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and I thank President Bush for this distinct privilege,” Martin, 38, said in a press statement.
Martin’s appointment does not require Senate confirmation since he is already an FCC commissioner. Martin, a Republican, previously worked as an economic adviser at the White House for the Bush administration and served as a deputy general counsel on Bush’s first campaign.
As chairman, Martin will lead an agency that regulates phone, broadcast, Internet and other telecommunications services. The FCC has taken an increasingly critical role with the explosive growth in the telecommunications and media industries.
Some issues the agency will likely confront in the near future include proposed corporate mergers in the telecommunications industry, the digital TV transition, how to regulate Internet phone calls and the deployment of broadband services over cable infrastructure.
The agency will also tackle more controversial matters, such as revising media ownership rules and clarifying broadcast indecency guidelines. In recent months, Martin has pushed for more aggressive actions against decency violations.
In June 2003, Martin backed Powell’s proposal to ease restrictions on corporate ownership of media properties, despite concerns the action would limit diversity and consumer choices. But the FCC’s new rules were blocked in June 2004 by a U.S. Court of Appeals, which ordered the agency to better justify easing ownership regulations.
Still, Martin and Powell have not always agreed on major issues, most notably in 2003 when Martin sided with the FCC’s two Democrat commissioners on a key vote over phone competition rules.
Powell on Wednesday congratulated Martin on his promotion, saying he “will soon take a front seat at the technology revolution.”
“His wide knowledge of telecommunication policy issues and insight into the rapidly changing nature of communications technology will serve the agency well,” Powell said in a press statement.
But advocacy group Center for Creative Voices in Media on Wednesday cautioned that Martin’s support of media consolidation and tougher broadcast decency regulations could harm freedom of speech and expression.
“As FCC chairman, we hope Mr. Martin will reconsider these positions. They cause an unacceptable infringement on the First Amendment free speech and expression rights of creative artists and the First Amendment rights of the American public,” Executive Director Jonathan Rintels said in a press statement.
The White House must now nominate a new commissioner to fill Martin’s position on the five-member panel, and the nominee requires Senate confirmation.