Remarks by FCC Commissioner Michael Copps

April 18, 2011 | By | Reply More

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I recently attended the National Conference on Media Reform in Boston. FCC Commissioner Michael Copps presented at one of the sessions (“The FCC at NCMR: a National Town Hall”). I did not take video of his presentation, but I wanted to share a few things Commissioner Copps had to say.

First, I need to note a few things about Michael Copps. He has had a long and illustrious career as FCC Commissioner– he has taken the job seriously, attempting to use the powers of his office for truly advancing the public good. Perhaps you are thinking that all FCC commissioners should be doing this, but the long history the organization proves otherwise. Copps is extremely for the principled stance is taken if the FCC and for what he has accomplished at the FCC.

Michael Copps (creative commons)

Consider, for example, Copps’ stance regarding the recently approved merger of Comcast and NBC: In January 18th, 2011 the FCC and the United States Department of Justice allowed Comcast to buy NBC Universal. Michael Copps was the only commissioner of the FCC to vote against the merger. Here’s what he had to say:

I searched in vain for the benefits (…) Pardon me, but a deal of this size should be expected to yield more than the limited benefits cited. (…)

In sum, this is simply too much, too big, too powerful, too lacking in benefits for American consumers and citizens…. I would be true to neither the statute nor to everything I have fought for here at the Commission over the past decade if I did not dissent from what I consider to be a damaging and potentially dangerous deal (..) At the end of the day, the public interest requires more-much more-than it is receiving. The Comcast-NBCU joint venture opens the door to the cable-ization of the open Internet. The potential for walled gardens, toll booths, content prioritization, access fees to reach end users, and a stake in the heart of independent content production is now very real.

To put Copps’ stance in perspective, Barack Obama’s carefully handpicked Commissioner, Julius Genachowski, and all the other commissioners, voted to approve this hideous merger, leaving Michael Copps standing alone as a matter of principle.

Here are some of Copps’ comments at the Boston Media Reform Conference session I attended:

– Copps has always believed that government regulation could be a force for public good.

– Before Michael Copps joined the FCC, there had never before been a public hearing offered by the FCC. Since he’s been a Commissioner, there have been more than 50 public hearings.

– Copps has focused on not-inside-the-Beltway issues.

– The Republicans are arguing “hands off the Internet,” so that the telecoms can control the Internet. This goes to the heart of the future of democracy, and thousands of journalists are “off the beat” on the story.

– America is starved for factual news reporting., Yet how many facts are permanently buried, never made known public? We have lots of opinion, but opinions need to be based upon facts.

– The resolution of all major issues rides on how they are portrayed by the media.

– The Internet is not yet filling the role traditionally fulfilled by newspapers and broadcast networks. Most of the news we still see (90-95%) is produced originally by newspapers and broadcast networks.

– We need to bring back licensing regimens for the public interest is invited and it controls the renewals of station licenses. This would encourage broadcasters to talk to people about what to cover. It would help keep minorities from being stereotyped.

– In the 1930s, a quid pro quo was reached. The airwaves belong to the people of the United States, and stations are offered licenses to use those airwaves and they must use them to cover the public interest.

– Citizen action can still work, even though a small number of people in the United States hold vast economic and political power, and even though their money has immense influence.

– Copps is concerned about net neutrality in the short term. “There’s lots of room to do mischief.” He further noted that wireless is not included in the regulations that have been issued by the FCC. Long-term, he is even more worried. New technologies always end up getting controlled by corporate interests. The FCC has issued regulations with which he has called the Internet and “information service” under the 1996 Communications Act, rather than designating the Internet a “telecommunications service.” No other country in the world has gone down this road. What this means is that the FCC is not going to take charge to make sure that net neutrality is enforced.

– “We need to recommit ourselves to reforming the media, of, by and for the American people.”


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Category: Journalism, Media, Politics, populism

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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