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Martin Makes Brief Appearance At Cable Show

Kevin Martin, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, did show up Tuesday at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association show here. And that's about all that can be said.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Kevin Martin, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, did show up Tuesday at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association show here. And that's about all that can be said.

In a stay lasting no more than 15 minutes, the newest FCC chair answered a short list of questions before a keynote audience and then a few more in a Q&A with reporters before drawing a hasty conclusion to his first official, public appearance as chairman.

Left unanswered were the unasked questions about the wide range of critical issues facing his commission, topics like intercarrier compensation, universal service, Voice over IP and the future of telecommunications regulation, which the new chairman apparently did not have time to address.

Thanks to the direct questioning of moderator Stuart Varney, audience members at least got to watch Martin squirm a bit as he tried to answer Varney's opening gambit of asking Martin to define indecency.

"I think we've heard a lot of concern from parents about what is and isn't appropriate, for all kinds of media," said Martin, ducking a direct definition. The FCC's recent focus on indecency issues, Martin said, is because the FCC is now receiving "thousands" of complaints about inappropriate material, up from just scattered complaints when he first joined the FCC in 2001.

Martin, who has clamped down on public utterances from the commission since being named chairman last month, did offer a couple thoughts on what the guiding principles of his tenure as chairman might be. "The marketplace is much more important than regulation," Martin said, perhaps tipping his hand toward a more deregulatory stance. "But that doesn't mean government doesn't have a role to play," he added.

With congressional members threatening to bring indecency legislation to bear on cable networks, Martin said that the industry "still has an opportunity" to police itself. Speaking to reporters in a doorway to a service elevator behind the keynote stage area, Martin added that it was important for parents "to have more tools" to help them restrict access to material they might consider offensive or inappropriate for their children.

According to a show representative, Martin was scheduled to tour the show floor later in the day but did not have any other public meetings with the press planned.

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