News

Copps: Media Ignoring Ownership Debate

4/22/2003 9:03 AM Eastern

Federal Communications Commission member Michael Copps complained Tuesday
that big media outlets are ignoring the debate at the agency over
media-ownership policies.

"I have yet to see network-news coverage, a network-news item on the evening
news or a newsmagazine. Yet it's something that goes to the very fundamentals of
our ability to be good citizens and it goes to the fundamentals of the kind of
entertainment we are going to have," Copps said in an appearance on the WAMU
radio broadcast of TheKojo Nnamdi Show in Washington, D.C.

A Democrat serving on a Republican-controlled agency, Copps is opposed to
relaxing media-ownership rules, and he has traveled the country to drum up
support for his position.

But he said there's been little media interest in his public forums on in the
broader media-ownership policies before the agency.

"I am not alleging that there is a conspiracy of silence with regard to what
I have been doing around the country, but I must say the major networks and some
of the major chain papers have not done a very good job of covering it," he
added.

The charge of media indifference toward media-business issues is not new. In
1995, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) complained that CBS, NBC, Fox and ABC failed to
cover the congressional debate over loaning billions of dollars of spectrum
free-of-charge to TV broadcasters for their transition to digital TV.

The FCC is planning to vote June 2 on a number of ownership rules, including
one that bans the common ownership of a newspaper and TV station or radio
station within the same market.

Copps said that if the ban is lifted, he expects rapid consolidation between
newspapers and broadcasters, and any public-interest harms that might result
would be impossible to reverse.

Appearing later on the same program, FCC Media Bureau chief Kenneth Ferree
explained that the commission's ownership rules have come under judicial assault
and the agency is attempting to craft rules that can survive court review.

Retention of the newspaper-broadcast rule would not survive in court, Ferree
said. "I can tell you right now, to a moral certainty, if we readopt that rule,
it will be struck down in court immediately," he added.

Copps has complained that media ownership is heavily concentrated today,
perhaps resulting in more indecent programming unsuitable for children and more
homogenized news and entertainment programming.

Some of this could be seen in coverage of the war with Iraq, he said.

"Without having done any in-depth study of it, I would say that while there
was certainly extensive coverage of the war, there was not a lot of clash and
diversity of ideas," Copps said.

"I am amazed, really, just amazed at the number of people who told me they
are turning to the BBC [British Broadcasting Corp.] and some of the
international media voices to get a little more diversity into what they are
watching and hearing," he added.

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