Meeting Chairman Powell

Meeting Chairman Powell

: I just met Michael Powell.

The former chairman of the FCC was at the Aspen Institute forum I’ve been attending; he’s a senior fellow there. So I knew I’d see him.

And I’ll confess I was a bit nervous about meeting him. Or perhaps embarrassed.

I’ve been hard on Powell on this page over his role in the FCC’s indecency blitzkrieg. And I certainly stand by that criticism.

But I also agree with him on his other unpopular stance, media consolidation. I respect where he stood on the First Amendment — before he led the indecency stampede. I think he gets the importance of letting technology grow on its own (he has said that the best thing FCC did for wi-fi was nothing, or words to that effect). I’ve seen him speak at a conference and knew he was smart and softspoken. So it’s not as if I was meeting someone I could ignore. Powell’s not someone to be dismissed. I was eager to meet the man and hear from him.

And I didn’t flatter myself to think that he’d paid any attention to what some blogger had snarked about him. But Larry Kudlow had told me that he’d brought up my criticism to Powell on the air. So I didn’t know: He could have decked me.

I decided to make it clear from the first that I’d blogged about him, from the other side. Twice, I said I was a blogging gnat who’d buzzed about him and he dismissed that, waved the point away like a bug in the air, and said I was just one of many.

The Aspen rules are that you can’t quote someone with attribution without permission and I didn’t intend to blog conversations with Powell. I will say that when we discussed indecency, I said that the FCC and Congress have no cover to defend the First Amendment; if they do vote for free speech, they can be accused of voting for smut. And he didn’t disagree. I will also admit that in a conversation about our favorite gadgets, I told about using my Treo to blog about the FCC’s fine against Howard Stern from the choir loft of my church. He noted the irony of that. And otherwise, we talked about technology changing society and how the next generation thinks and about favorite gadgets and about telecom and video games and media consolidation.

I like him. He’s smart and easygoing and charming. We disagree about indecency (though I suspect we’re not as far apart as it may seem) and agree about other issues. And I’d like to hear more from him.

Is there any news in this post? No. But I figured that given our history, I couldn’t meet Michael Powell without telling you.