Copps Takes Initial Steps Toward Boosting Minority Ownership

Says focus on DTV transition will not overshadow other important items

Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps told reporters Wednesday it was time to do something about boosting minority ownership in broadcasting, saying he had already put in motion the process to provide legal justification and factual underpinnings for doing so.

While he said the FCC remains focused on the digital transition, he also said that doesn't mean it would ignore important items. "We are still operating under the instruction [from Congress] to put our overwhelming focus on DTV," he said, "but that being said, I think there is a lot the commission can accomplish in the weeks and months ahead."

For example, Copps said, "one of the big things I have been interested in is minority ownership of broadcast properties. The time to start moving on that is right now. But we have to make sure that as we go forward with new policies we have the legal underpinnings that we need to satisfy the courts and the factual documentation we need to have to verify our case and if we have to do additional studies, this is the time to do it. I am putting that into motion."

He said he is teeing it up so that "when the new group gets here...they won't have to start from scratch." That new group is still expected to be headed by his presumptive permanent replacement, Obama tech policy adviser Julius Genachowski.

"The Chairman is absolutely right," said Minority Media &
Telecommunications Council Executive Director David Honig. Minority
ownership policies are sustainable if the necessary research is done
thoroughly and objectively. The commission undertook that worrk in
2000, dropped the ball, and now we're glad to see that Copps has picked
it up."

MMTC has long advocated for greater minority participation, as well as greater FCC enforcement of civil rights.

The FCC did approve a dozen or so minority initiatives under former
Chairman Kevin Martin, including two key ones, says Honig -- one that
made it easier for buyers to finance deals and one banning
discrimination in the placment of advertising (banning so-called "no
urban dictates" in ad buys).

But much more needs to be done, says Honig.

As the Obama White House points out on its Web site, "Encourag[ing] diversity in the ownership of broadcast media, promot[ing] the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints, and clarify[ing] the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation's spectrum" is high on the administration's media/tech policy agenda, which Genachowski helped craft.