Copps Gets Going

Michael Copps is getting down to business as the acting chairman of the FCC. He’s already brought on staff and laid out his game strategy. His bullet points include transparency, improved communications, staff training, DTV mop-up and, displaying practicality stunning for a veteran bureaucrat, Copps called to have the FCC’s labyrinthine Web site tidied up.

His first move was to bring on Rick Chessen as his acting chief of staff. Chessen was previously the commission’s DTV czar and probably ought to be around for zero hour. Scott Deuchman will be acting senior legal advisor for Copps. Paul Murray, currently a legal advisor on the telecom bureau will work for the chief until President Obama appoints a long-term chairman.

Copps also tapped out a 2,600-word statement outlining what he intends to do. He’s been in public service for nearly 40 years, eight of it at the FCC. He aims to dust off the concept at the FCC under his watch:

“There are the actions we must take now to make the FCC more transparent, open and useful to the stakeholders that we serve. And when I say stakeholders, I include not just the industries that we regulate but, more importantly, all citizens--and here let me once again underline the word ‘all.’ …The spectrum is theirs and the rest of us are stewards.”

FCC communications lines were another target--between bureaus, between commissioners and between the FCC and the public.

“If we can’t communicate with ourselves, we shouldn’t have the word ‘communications’ in our title,” he wrote. “To promote more openness, starting this coming week, we will have a weekly chairman’s office briefing with bureau and office chiefs, or their designees, and we will include a representative from each commissioner’s office.”

He encouraged professional development of the staff as well.

“Speaking and writing opportunities should be encouraged whenever practicable, participation in FCC University applauded, and going the extra-mile rewarded by your peers and supervisors,” he said.

Copps addressed the DTV transition, saying that it was too late for it to be “seamless,” but the commission will have to do everything it can to clean up whatever chaos does ensue.

“There are still millions of Americans who need help to understand what they need to do to ensure continued over-the-air television reception in the digital age. It is with this stark challenge in mind that I ask today for additional FCC volunteers to come forward and help,” he said.

Copps included a near tear-inducing suggestion for anyone who’s tried to navigate, acknowledging that even FCC commissioners have trouble wading through it.

“The commission has a wealth of resources on its Web site,” he said. “Some of it is easy to find and use; much of it is, unfortunately, difficult to locate and even more difficult to use--for us at the commission, and, worse, for the public at large. The commission must update its Web site to be more user-friendly.”

He went on to give props to Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein, his fellow Democrat, and Robert McDowell, now the lone albeit non-doctrinaire Republican. McDowell dished his own props back to Copps, urging the acting commissioner to conduct “a thorough operational, financial and ethics audit of the commission and its related entities.”

“As with all FCC reform endeavors, I hope that all of the commissioners will be involved in this process, including its development and initiation,” McDowell said. “We should seek comment from the public and the commission staff, and we should provide commission employees with an opportunity to submit comments anonymously.”

Both statements are ostensibly available at