Kevin Martin is not Michael Powell. Martin doesn’t much like Powell, but it’s becoming apparent that he doesn’t measure up to him. Not yet. For example, Powell regularly would host D.C. reporters for hour-long off-the-record sessions that showed off his depth of knowledge and quick wit. He’d sit on his desk and intelligently answer questions on cable, broadcast, radio, CE. Whether you agreed with him or not, he knew his topics and was comfortable discussing them. To date, Martin has not held one press conference. And when he talks publicly, he’s unremarkable. Remember him at the National Show in San Francisco? I do. He was our cover boy for the post-show issue. Remember what he said? Neither do I. So I went to the CableFAX archives and dug up this report: "Kevin Martin made his 1st public appearance as FCC chairman at National yesterday, and he didn’t say much." We gave Martin a pass on that speech, since he had only been on the job two weeks. The problem is that he didn’t say much for the next eight months. And I don’t suspect that he’ll say much more in the next 12 months. That brings us to his ridiculous a la carte plan, which caused so many headlines earlier this month. In short, Martin says he has a "secret" study that disproves the a la carte conclusions of Powell’s FCC. I haven’t seen the plan. At our deadline, nobody outside of the FCC has either. But there are three certainties I know about a la carte: 1) A la carte won’t happen. There’s no momentum in Congress for it, and the courts would never allow it. The public outcry Martin keeps talking about is really just a handful of groups spamming the FCC with complaints. 2) Cable will go a la carte. It’s already heading down that route with video on demand. If MSOs can charge individual subscribers by the program with VOD, they shouldn’t have any problems—technically speaking—charging subscribers per channel per month. In other words, a la carte is coming, but it’s going to be on the market’s terms—something Republicans like Martin usually champion. 3) Chairman Martin is a politician. Martin’s Nov. 29 declaration that he has a "secret" plan showing that a la carte makes economic sense was pure political theater. Martin wanted to repay religious conservatives for supporting his move to the chairmanship and chose the indecency issue as the best way to do it. * * * As this is our last issue of 2005, here’s wishing you and yours a peaceful holiday season and a happy New Year.

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