Copps Suggests Broadcasters Don't Deserve Spectrum
November 4, 2009 at 5:08 AM (PT)
On the second day of the FCC's quadrennial ownership rules review hearings, Commissioner MICHAEL COPPS ripped broadcasters and consolidation, suggesting that "if we can't fix what's broken" in broadcasting, including broadcast journalism and "mind-numbing monoprogramming," "maybe those who want that spectrum back have the better of the argument."
In his remarks, COPPS reiterated his complaints about consolidation and limited news coverage of the issue and MONDAY's panel as well as the Commission's own inaction; he warned that "consolidation is coming back, and once the economic indices start heading north, you'll see media properties galore -- all pining for those elusive 'economies of scale' whose chase doomed so many companies over the past few years."
consolidation is coming back, and once the economic indices start heading north, you'll see media properties galore -- all pining for those elusive 'economies of scale' whose chase doomed so many companies over the past few years
"We’ve been asleep at the switch when we weren’t being downright destructive," COPPS said. "Twenty-plus years of heedless deregulation eviscerated almost every public interest guideline we had. Media companies took advantage of that. Don’t blame them. Blame us." He urged the Commission to act quickly on ownership issues "because the window of opportunity that is open to us now will not be forever open, and we could one day be castigating ourselves for not harvesting the field when we could."
COPPS also asserted that "localism," which critics have said is a back-door way to achieve the Fairness Doctrine's aims without an actual Fairness Doctrine rule, "deserves action now. Let’s not be intimidated by a few loud and strident voices trying to make 'localism' a dirty word. It’s not. Localism is making sure that our broadcast media spend some quality time covering what is going on in the communities where people live -- local news and information, local music, and the rich cultural diversity that makes AMERICA AMERICA. Some shout 'communism' from their perches -- as if people who have had their fill of shuttered newsrooms, infotainment and an increasingly uncivil civic dialogue are somehow un-American."
And COPPS returned to another of his familiar arguments in calling for an end to "slam-dunk license renewals every eight years," which he called "just not credible."
Panelists Debate Loosening Ownership Rules
At the panels, representatives from public interest groups like the MEDIA ACCESS PROJECT and FREE PRESS reiterated their arguments against loosening ownership restrictions, with FREE PRESS Reserach Director DEREK TURNER saying that the FCC isn't charged with fixing broadcasters' financial problems and that even with rule changes, broadcasters would go back to the same behavior that got them into trouble in the first place. MEDIA ACCESS PROJECT chief ANDREW SCHWARTZMAN agreed and noted that broadcasters remain profitable, with the problem being on the WALL STREET investment side.
But former FCC Media Bureau Chief KEN FERREE, who now works with the PROGRESS AND FREEDOM FOUNDATION, noted that broadcasting is a less significant part of the overall media landscape than in the past and suggested eliminating "archaic" ownership rules and indecency regulations that he said hamper broadcasters' ability to compete with new media.