Deborah Tate steps down at FCC

Departure had been expected

FCC commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate is exiting the regulatory org after three years, but outgoing FCC chairman Kevin Martin is keeping mum on his plans after president-elect Barack Obama takes office next month.

Martin’s term as a commissioner runs through 2011. He’ll be replaced as Federal Communications Commissioner chief by the Obama administration — the frontrunner remains Obama’s Harvard Law School pal and former FCC aide Julius Genachowski — but Martin does have the option of serving out his term on the five-member panel.

Martin would not comment on his future plans during a conference call with reporters Tuesday.

Tate said her goodbyes to her fellow commissioners during Tuesday’s meeting, which was mostly content-free except for the de rigueur hand-wringing about the digital TV transition in February.

Tate’s departure had been expected, as her term of office had expired and she was never confirmed in her post by the U.S. Senate. The Republican from Tennessee spent three years on the panel that she joined as a recess appointment by President Bush.

The FCC is basically in lame-duck mode until the Obama administration takes root after the Jan. 20 inaugural. The one item on which the commissioners will vote next month is giving their blessing to a bill that sailed through Congress to allow TV stations to keep their analog signals up on for 30 days after the Feb. 17 digital transition date. The analog channels would not carry programming after Feb. 17 but rather a text slate informing viewers of their options for receiving digital signals.

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