Copps Pushes Ownership Rewrite


As the deadline for appealing to the Supreme Court draws near, Federal Communications Commission member Michael Copps is urging agency chairman Michael Powell not to pursue a legal challenge and instead to get going on a lower-court order to rewrite media-ownership rules.

During a public forum on media ownership in St. Paul, Minn., Thursday. Aide Jordan Goldstein delivered a written statement for Copps, who was recovering from minor surgery.

Copps urged Powell to move forward on rewriting the agency’s broadcast ownership restrictions immediately. “Now is not the time for more delay through additional litigation,” he said.

“Now is the time to come up with media concentration protections that will expand the voices and choices that support our marketplace of ideas and sustain American democracy and creativity.” By Jan 2 the FCC must decide whether to seek Supreme Court review of a lower court’s order to require the FCC to rewrite its 2003 deregulation of broadcast ownership limits.

Copps, who wants to stem consolidation of media ownership, voted against the deregulation. The 2003 changes, among other moves, permitted more crossownership of TV stations and newspapers in local markets, relaxed limits on owning two TV stations in a market and for the first time allowed one owner to control three TV stations in a handful of the country’s biggest cities.

The Philadelphia federal appeals court ruled in June that the FCC hadn’t justified the changes and ordered the agencies to start over. FCC attorneys have been reviewing whether to accept the Philadelphia court’s order or seek redress at the Supreme Court.

Last week, Powell said the rewrite and subsequent challenges might take five years or more to resolve. Copps disagrees. He thinks the FCC should comply with the lower court order and launch the rewrite now. “I believe we can put rules in place in a matter of months, rather than years.”

He urged Powell and other commissioners to hit the road and host more public forums to gather input from Americans. Copps also urged the commission not to rewrite the individual rules one by one but to tackle broadcast ownership review as one package. “Some have also suggested that the commission should move to eliminate or loosen the media concentration rules one by one, rather than look at their collective effect on our media,” he wrote.

“I can only surmise that this strategy to further erode media concentration protections step by step would be designed to accomplish gigantic changes to our media landscape while minimizing public scrutiny of the overall impact.” Powell isn’t expected to address how a rewrite is pursued until the possibility of a Supreme Court appeal is resolved.