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"Lone Operator" Martin The FCC's New Punching Bag

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Critics usually blame Martin, a soft-spoken Republican known as a political tactician who has accomplished the rare feat of being criticized by all four of his fellow commissioners. He is also facing a congressional inquiry into the FCC's procedures and allegations of flawed research studies, suppressing data, ignoring public input and holding hearings with minimal notice.

"The FCC appears to be broken," Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said during a hearing last week. Congressional Democrats' growing frustration with Martin could hinder his agenda. Last week, for example, a Senate committee passed legislation to delay Martin's planned vote this month on loosening media ownership rules.

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Commission employees said that Martin, chairman since 2005, keeps his plans tightly wrapped, believing there's a tactical advantage in springing them on other commissioners with little notice. For example, last month commissioners learned the details of his proposal to ease restrictions on owning a newspaper and broadcast station in the same market when they read about it in an opinion article by Martin in the New York Times.

"He is a lone operator," said an FCC insider who did not want to publicly criticize Martin. "Sometimes even his own staff doesn't really know what he's thinking and what's he's going to do next."

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