Michael Powell is stepping down as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and he may want to say his legacy is the work he did to encourage the development of new communications technology.
We think the record will show that Powell was more interested in removing barriers to communications monopolies and most interested in cracking down on what conservatives view as offensive material on commercial radio and television.
Stations are scared
It was Powell's overreaction to Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" at last year's Super Bowl half-time show that directly led to millions of viewers not seeing the Veterans Day broadcast of "Saving Private Ryan." Many stations chose not to air the historical drama because they were afraid they might be fined for broadcasting the rough, realistic language of soldiers in battle.
That's the kind of thing that happens when the FCC gives weight to orchestrated complaint campaigns by narrow-minded special interests. People are urged to bombard the FCC with complaints, regardless of whether they actually saw the offending program or not.
New technology is a serious issue for the FCC. Let's hope Powell's successor devotes his time and his agency's resources to that issue, rather than to pandering to bluenoses.