Democratic Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps says the agency has "abetted the decline of our small 'd' democratic dialogue" by consistently failing to protect the public interest.
Copps was accepting the Roosevelt Institute's Freedom of Speech and Expression Medal on Sept. 18 at the Four Freedoms awards ceremony at Hyde Park, N.Y., home of his hero, Franklin Roosevelt. The awards stem from the president's "Four Freedoms" wartime speech in which he argued that what the country was fighting for were the freedoms of speech and worship, and the freedoms from want and fear.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton back in January 2010 added free Internet to the list, an issue Copps has been passionate about.
The award was for Copps' "tenacious efforts to keep our media truly free." The commissioner, who is exiting the commission by the end of the year, has been nothing if not consistent in his passion for holding the media's, and his agency's, feet to the fire on ownership, access and public-interest issues.
Copps told his audience the public's interest in diverse, local journalism had been "ravaged" by special interest. "Freedom of Speech and Expression suffers from the excesses of financial speculators who are more interested in the bottom line on the quarterly report than in quality news on the front page or the evening news," he said. "Freedom of Speech and Expression is further impaired by a federal government absent without leave for more than 30 years from its responsibility to protect the public interest. "
Copps pushed for a digital new deal for the public-interest: "We can cower before their money and their lobbies in unreasoning, unjustified fear -- or, in true Rooseveltian fashion, we can take them on, relish the battle, mobilize the American people, and do democracy's work."