Washington— Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin is scheduled to meet privately with just Republican members of the House Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee two days before he and other FCC members are to testify in public before the Democratic-controlled panel.
Martin’s session with the group of GOP House members was contained in a Feb. 6 memo sent by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) to his party colleagues on the panel. The one-page memo, obtained last Wednesday by Multichannel News, invited the lawmakers to meet with Martin Feb. 13 at 3 p.m. in the Rayburn House Office Building. Upton, the top-ranking Republican on the subcommittee, indicated that House staffers were not invited to attend.
Martin’s private session with Republicans didn’t sit well with the Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who took power in January determined to shine a spotlight on FCC operations under Martin, a Republican Bush appointee.
“Chairman Dingell is also holding a members’ meeting with chairman Martin. It’s called an oversight hearing and it’s open to the public,” Dingell spokeswoman Jodi Seth said.
Martin testified before the Senate Commerce Committee on Feb. 1. The hearing didn’t turn into the grilling that some press reports had predicted. Hot-button issues on which Martin and cable have clashed — including retransmission consent for broadcast-TV stations, digital set-top box waivers, and the a la carte sale of cable programming — were not raised.
On Feb. 15, Martin is scheduled to appear before the House panel under chairman Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who disagrees with Martin on a host of issues. Unlike Martin, Markey supports government-imposed Internet network-nondiscrimination regulation of cable and phone broadband-access providers. Markey told reporters two weeks ago that he was unsure when he would try to advance a network neutrality bill.
Martin has been meeting with House Democrats separately, and he agreed to meet with House Republicans as a group at their request. A House Democratic staff member with long tenure, however, couldn’t recall a similar meeting involving an FCC chairman and just one party from a committee.
“Chairman Martin meets with members of Congress on both sides of aisle all of the time,” FCC spokeswoman Tamara Lipper said.