Copps: Media Has 'Bad Case of Substance Abuse'

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Saying there has recently been no oversight of the media, the Federal Communications Commission's Michael Copps plans to tell a Columbia School of Journalism audience that American journalism was in "its hour of grave peril."

That is according to an interview with BBC World News America (viewable here).

Interviewer Katty Kay, the BBC's Washington correspondent, called that statement a "pretty serious condemnation."

"It's a pretty serious situation," Copps, a Democratic member of the FCC, responded, and he wasn't done condemning. "I think the American media has a bad case of substance abuse right now," giving new meaning to the term news junkie.

"We are not producing the body of news and information democracy needs to conduct its civil dialog," Copps said. American media are not producing as much news as five or 10 years ago, he said. "We have to reverse that trend or I think we are going to be pretty close to denying our citizens the essential news and information that they need..."

In the speech, Copps apparently calls for a "public value test" for the media, which the interviewer suggested raised the specter of excessive government control of information.

"One person's public value is not another person's," Kay said.

Copps said the value he was talking about was whether or not the media -- specifically broadcasters -- were producing more news, or using more resources or seeking input from their "community of license" about what kind of programming they want.

Copps has long argued for reviving the requirement that broadcasters actively ascertain community needs and program to those needs. In a 2009 speech, prior to chairman Julius Genachowski joining the panel, he opined that "we're not only losing journalists, we may be losing journalism."

Broadcasters have argued that programming to their audience is part of the DNA of their ad-supported business.

The FCC is currently conducting a review of the state of community media with an eye toward recommendations for strengthening it.

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