In an exit interview with Multichannel
News Washington bureau chief John
Eggerton, Federal Communications Commission
member Michael Copps said
he thinks the agency needs to do something
about retransmission consent and to talk about applying
a public-interest standard to broadband.
MCN: It looks like retrans reform won’t happen while you
are here. What do you think the FCC should do?
Michael Copps: There is a problem there. I think for years,
we operated under the assumption
that our only role was to encourage
good-faith negotiations between parties.
But I think we need to take a look,
and are in the process of doing that, to
see if that is the only avenue we have,
and do we take full advantage of it.
We live in such a different world
now. When retrans first came along,
it was to protect small broadcasters,
small cable and consumers, and
now it has just kind of morphed into a big money-vs.-big money
game and “who’s got the revenue stream.” It is a somewhat
different world and we ought to be cognizant of that whenever
the commission gets around to making a decision.
It is very complex and complicated, but there should be
some solution that works to the benefit of consumers, who
are too often just the unwitting witnesses of these end-of-year
standoffs between mega-corporations that are purely about
MCN: You talk about the government needing to better
enforce the public-interest standard, but if video delivery is
migrating to broadband, as this commission has suggested,
there is no public-interest standard for broadband delivery of
MC: I think [serving] the public interest is throughout the Telecommunications
Act. But you are correct that, at some point,
we have to have a serious, rational, non-shouting discussion
about what is the public interest in the broadband age.
I don’t want to make too sharp a demarcation between old
media and new media. Let’s just assume for the sake of our
conversation that radio and television are going to migrate
over the years to broadband. If broadband is our new town
square of democracy, then you have to make sure that it is
serving our public interest. That is vital to the interests of our
country. Is it simple? No.
MCN: Any parting thoughts?
MC: This has been an experience of a lifetime. It is a wonderful
job. You get to meet everybody in the world on these issues,
and there are wonderful people you meet as you travel around
the country. You deal with all these edge of the envelope issues
that really are important to the future of the country, none
more important than getting our information infrastructure
And then you have some independence here to do your job
as you would like to do it. Working in a cabinet agency — I was
at the Department of Commerce — you are always very careful.
“Can I say this, what is the undersecretary going to say?
Can I say this, what is the secretary going to say?” Here you
still are very careful, and you can still get yourself in all kinds
of trouble. But you get mad at yourself and you really don’t stay
as mad at yourself as long as other people stay mad at you at