More regs looming, Powell warns confab

FCC chair sees 'mood swing' in regulation attitudes

WASHINGTON — Federal Communications Commission topper Michael Powell issued an ominous warning to the business community Monday: Regulation is here to stay, and more is likely on its way.

Powell, long known as a free-market advocate, blamed the shift toward more government intervention on the “despicable activity” of some companies, as well as the ongoing terrorism threat.

“I do see a mood swing in Washington. I see a mood swing in the country,” Powell said at the Aspen Summit, a technology and telecommunications summit held by the Progress and Freedom Foundation, a Washington think tank.

“The despicable activity engaged in by Enron and MCI and Adelphia — and the list is long — violates the trust of their employees, violates the trust of the market, violates the trust of consumers, and people cry out to be protected,” he said.

Powell then stressed that, while government must respond, it should not overreact.

No doubt the FCC chairman was also referring — if only obliquely — to the controversy stirred by the agency’s recent decision to loosen broadcast industry regs.

Led by Powell, the Republican-dominated FCC voted 3-2 on June 2 to ease decades-old restrictions on ownership of newspapers and television and radio stations. The changes, which go into effect Sept. 4, allow a single company to own TV stations reaching nearly half the nation’s viewers and combinations of newspapers and broadcast outlets in the same area.

Lawmakers from both parties are pushing to roll back some or all the FCC changes, a fight expected to heat up when Congress returns from its August recess.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)