NEW YORK (CNN/Money) – Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell will resign from the agency he has led for four years, sources told CNN.
A senior government official says Powell, a member of the FCC since November 1998 and the chairman since early 2001, will announce his resignation later Friday. His term on the commission runs through 2007.
FCC spokesmen were not immediately available for comment, though one person in the press office said a new release is anticipated.
Powell has been a relatively high-profile chairman of what had generally been a quiet regulatory agency before his tenure. He has pushed for increased fines for obscenity and indecent content by the nation’s broadcasters and backed a change in media ownership rules that allowed for greater consolidation by the industry’s largest conglomerates.
In September the FCC fined Viacom (Research), which owns CBS, $550,000 for the 2004 Super Bowl half-time show in which Janet Jackson’s breast was briefly revealed during a musical number. The media conglomerate is challenging that fine.
Viacom agreed in November to pay a record $3.5 million to settle a number of complaints involving alleged indecent comments on its radio stations, including remarks by its most popular radio personality, Howard Stern.
Partly to get away from FCC oversight, Stern has signed a contract to move to satellite radio provider Sirius (Research) in 2006. On his show Friday, Stern cheered reports that Powell would be leaving.
“Thank God he’s gone,” he said. “This is a great day in broadcasting.”
Powell had pushed for a large increase in the fines that the FCC can levy on broadcasters found guilty of indecent content, saying that the current allowable fines constitute the cost of doing business for the station owners.
Powell was originally appointed to the FCC by President Clinton before being given the lead of the agency by President Bush. The Atlanta Journal Constitution speculated late last year he is interested in a run for governor of Virginia, although he had declined to comment on his plans when questioned by the press several times last year.
In an August 2003 interview with CNN, Powell said he wanted to stay with the agency during this time of technological change.
“I have a lot more that I’d like to do. It’s a great agency, it’s an amazing time in technology for the country. So I’m going to be here for a little while,” he said then. Asked to define “a little while,” Powell said, “Well, that I don’t know yet, but certainly we’re going to at least be here for many, many, many more months to come.”
Not all the controversies involving Powell have been on high profile issues such as obscenity and media ownership. He has pushed to shift TV stations from the current analog broadcasting spectrum they’ve used since the invention of television onto more efficient digital broadcasting.
But station owners have balked at making the investment necessary for the change before many viewers have the televisions that can receive the new signals. Powell conceded in September Congressional testimony that the 2006 deadline is likely to be pushed back to 2009.
Powell is the son of Colin Powell, the retiring Secretary of State. Before joining the FCC, Powell served as chief of staff of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, and as a policy adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney when Cheney served as Secretary of Defense during the administration of President George H.W. Bush.