Federal Communications Commission member Michael Copps is planning to conduct
hearings around the country next year -- alone, if necessary -- to raise public
awareness about pending FCC moves involving media ownership.
Copps, a Democrat, has voiced concern that the Republican-controlled FCC,
under chairman Michael Powell, intends to relax ownership rules governing
corporate control of cable systems, TV and radio stations, newspapers and TV
The commission is planning to adopt new rules next spring. It is widely
expected that the FCC will allow some newspapers and TV stations to combine in
the same market and allow TV-station-group owners to expand their reach beyond
35 percent of TV households.
Having failed to convince Powell to hold public forums on media
consolidation, Copps said he planned to organize public hearings himself in all
regions of the country starting in January.
"I am determined in going ahead. As a commissioner, I can do that," he told
Copps described Powell's interest in public hearings as "lukewarm" and
"unenthusiastic." He said FCC staff told him public hearings were the equivalent
of "foot-stomping" that would delay action.
But Copps said it was possible that other FCC commissioners would end up
co-hosting the hearings in order to avoid being left out. Republican
commissioner Kevin Martin told reporters Tuesday that he would consider
supporting public hearings if they did not cause delays.
In a related matter, Copps called on the FCC to change its definition of
broadcast indecency. He said the current standard used to fine radio and TV
stations that cross the line is insufficient because although the agency
received hundreds of indecency complaints in the past year, only a few have
resulted in punishment.
Copps also called on the commission to study whether an increase in
media-ownership consolidation has resulted in a comparable increase in the
broadcasting of indecent programming.