09.06.2004 08:00 AM
FCC’s Copps turns the heat up on broadcaster political obligations

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps scolded over-the-air television broadcasters last week for poor political coverage and charged that the public is getting little in return for granting TV stations free use of the airwaves.

In an op-ed article published in the New York Times during the Republican National Convention, Copps criticized the commercial TV networks for their meager live convention coverage of both political parties this summer.

Copps, a Democrat appointee and former chief of staff for Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, (D-S.C.), said coverage of the 2000 presidential election on the network evening news dropped by a third compared to reporting on the 1996 election.

In 2002 — the most recent midterm elections — more than half of local newscasts contained no campaign coverage at all, Copps said. Local coverage has diminished to the point that campaign ads outnumber campaign stories by four to one.

Copps urged viewers to consider whether TV broadcasters, sustained by free access to the public airwaves in exchange for programming in the public interest, are holding up their end of the deal.

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