Democratic Federal Communications Commission member Michael Copps said
Tuesday that the agency is rushing toward a June 2 vote on broadcast-ownership
rules without sufficient deliberation or input, suggesting that any decision made by
that deadline would be based on "paltry" information.
The FCC itself hasn't done a good job of informing the public that the
proceeding was "teed up," he told a public-radio audience in a roundtable
discussion over noncommercial WAMU-FM Washington, D.C.
Copps also said the major media hasn't done a very good job of covering it.
"I have yet to see a network-news item on it," he said, despite what he calls
the issue's fundamental importance to "the virtues we prize: localism, diversity
Copps said only one of the "Big Three" networks had reported the story when
the review was first announced, and that was at 4:45 a.m.
FCC Media Burea chief Ken Feree disagreed that there has not been sufficient
comment on the rules, saying that the response has been "the best we've ever had"
since he's been there, calling it "astoundingly broad and diverse."
Ferree also said that unless the FCC modifies or gets rid of the
newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules, there is a "moral certainty" that the
D.C. Appeals Court would throw them out.
Feree said that rather than deregulating, the rule rewrite is intended to
recraft regulations that will pass muster with the court -- a point FCC chairman
Michael Powell has also emphasized.
The Appeals Court -- which has ruled against the FCC in five cases concerning
its ownership rules -- has interpreted the intent of the deregulatory 1996
Telecommunications Act as a requirement that the commission modify or throw out rules
unless it can justify them.
Taking issue with Ferree's "moral certainty" on newspaper-broadcast
cross-ownership was Media Access Project president Andrew Schwartzman, who
pointed out that the Supreme Court has already upheld the newspaper-broadcast
He also seconded Copps' complaint that the electronic media are
underreporting the issue, saying that Gannett Co. Inc.-owned KPNX(TV) Phoenix was
invited to participate in the informal media-ownership forum there but declined
and that the station, and Gannett's Arizona Republic, didn't write about
"When a state attorney general and a visiting FCC commissioner appear in
front of several-hundred people, I would think that is news," he added.
Helping to frame the issues for the WAMU discussion was Broadcasting &
Cable's Bill McConnell.