Copps pushes FCC's public-interest role


In a speech to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, commissioner Michael
Copps said the Federal Communications Commission should be a global force for
positive change.

In the United States, that means promoting the public interest and wider
access to broadband technology, he said, and restraining industry consolidation
and broadcast indecency.

Abroad, that means spreading technology that assists human development.

He attacked the notion -- espoused by his Republican colleagues -- that the
public interest is hard to define and, therefore, the agency should tread

'If the commission stops making decisions based on the public interest
because it has trouble pinpointing the exact parameters, it will be breaking the
law,' he said.

Unchecked U.S. industry consolidation, he warned, will dampen creativity and
ultimately hurt its competitiveness in the global economy.

When it comes to indecent broadcasts, Copps said the agency 'places an
inordinate responsibility on the complaining citizen' by dismissing many
complaints that aren't accompanied by transcripts.

He urged radio stations to voluntarily keep records of programs on file and
praised The Walt Disney Co. for promising to keep recordings on file for 60

Copps has said he wants the FCC to take a more active role in policing the
airwaves, primarily by making it easier for complaints to be investigated.

But Wednesday, he urged broadcasters and cable programmers to police
themselves by adopting a 'voluntary code of conduct, rather than going the usual
Washington route of legislation, regulation and adjudication, with the years of
suits, countersuits and appeals that this inevitably