Copps calls for blue-ribbon panel of journalists, citizens to restore public interest

Speaking at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in New York City Feb. 8, FCC commissioner Michael Copps called for the establishment of a "blue-ribbon panel of citizens and journalists" to examine ways to "restore public interest to the airwaves."

Since the 1980s, nearly all criteria to gauge a broadcast station's public interest performance have been "eviscerated," he said.

Copps told his audience that media consolidation has not revived the news business but has led to "less localism, less diversity of opinion and ownership, less serious political coverage and fewer jobs for journalists."

What's needed is a working group with a six-month deadline "charged with recommending real-world solutions to a real-world problem which pulses close to the heartbeat of our culture and our democracy," he said.

Copps laid out possible approaches to reviving public interest, including:

  • A stronger license renewal process requiring broadcasters to prove every few years that they are serving their local communities;
  • A community discovery requirement mandating stations to solicit input from local viewers about changing programming to better serve the community;
  • Tax incentives to encourage investment in broadcast journalism or other types of media; and
  • Encouraging a greater role for foundation investment.

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