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FCC’s Powell to stay course

Colin's kid plans to hang on to top post

Michael Powell might not be among the Powells who bolt the Bush administration after all.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Powell said he had no plans to leave the Federal Communications Commission anytime soon — despite earlier speculation that he would ankle the reg agency at the beginning of Bush’s second term.

Powell’s term runs until the end of 2007.

“It’s been one of my great privileges to serve under his leadership, and that’s what I plan to continue to do,” Powell said. “I’m happy where I am.”

Powell’s father, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, also has been understood to be considering stepping down.

One TV exec said there’s a certain safety in having the younger Powell remain at the helm.

“It’s a devil you know,” exec said.

Had Powell resigned, Republican FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin could have been upped to the top seat.

The younger Powell dismissed the possibility that he would leave Washington to become president at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., his alma mater.

Appointed by Bush to head the FCC four years ago, Powell has drawn mixed marks from entertainment congloms.

While he has supported the relaxation of media ownership rules, he has come down hard on indecency, levying record fines against shock jock Howard Stern and Viacom after Janet Jackson bared her breast during the Super Bowl halftime show.

Late Friday, Viacom sent the FCC a letter challenging the proposed $550,000 fines against the conglom’s owned-and-operated CBS TV stations.

The hefty, 78-page filing said the fines violate the First Amendment and would have a chilling effect on broadcasters.

Stern, who makes no secret of his disdain for Powell, attributed to the prevailing climate at Powell’s FCC his recent decision to leave the public airwaves and go to satellite radio when his contract at Viacom-owned Infinity runs out in 2006.

Indecency is likely to remain a key issue at the FCC, with media congloms continuing to argue that Washington walks a fine line in coming down on broadcasters.

Media ownership also remains on the table, as the courts continue to consider the merits of the FCC’s rollback of key rules and regs making it easier for one company to own more TV stations and newspapers.

Behind the scenes, Powell was criticized by the media biz for botching the rollback in not holding a round of public hearings, prompting a loud outcry from consumer groups. Ultimately, Powell had to hold the hearings.

Powell’s FCC brought good news for cable companies Tuesday as it voted to exempt providers of Internet-based phone cell services from key state regulations. In a 5-0 vote, the FCC said such services fall under federal jurisdiction. States could still impose some taxes and fees.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. said the decision establishes a national framework that will promote competition in this growing service, which some cable companies provide.

(Wire services contributed to this report.)

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