Copps Out

WASHINGTON: Michael Copps has tendered his resignation. The veteran FCC commissioner today officially announced his impending departure date.

“Yesterday, I submitted to the President notice of my intention to resign my post as commissioner effective Jan. 1, 2012. Should the Senate confirm my successor prior to that date, or should the Senate adjourn sine die before Jan. 1, I would of course be leaving sooner,” he said in a statement. “It has been a privilege and honor to serve for more than 10 years as a commissioner.”

President Obama has nominated one of Copps’ former staffers, Jessica Rosenworcel, to be his successor. Rosenworcel is senior telecom counsel to the Senate Commerce Committee, which has schedule a confirmation vote for her and fellow nominee Ajit Pai, for Thursday.

Copps was appointed to the commission in 2001 and for a second term in 2005. He was in the minority for most of his tenure, forever hammering at his colleagues to define public interest obligations for digital television, fighting media consolidation and broadcast indecency. He wasn’t one to couch statements in delicate terms. After a 2003 majority vote greatly relaxed media ownership limitations, Copps let fly:

“Today the Federal Communications Commission empowers America’s new media elite with unacceptable levels of influence over the ideas and information upon which our society and our democracy depend.”

He received the Roosevelt Institute’s Freedom of Speech and Expression Medal in September, saying local journalism had been “ravaged” by special interests. He also won the Newton Minow Award that month.

Yet he was unpretentious and droll, once following Deborah Norville at the podium during one of the endless Washington, D.C. events.

“This is like ‘Beauty and the Beast,’” he said.

Before his appointment to the commission, Copps was an assistant secretary at the Commerce Department, and worked previously as chief of staff for Sen. Ernest Hollings (D.-S.C.). He also taught U.S. history at Loyola University of the South.

“The FCC is an agency of true excellence and its decisions are integral to our country’s future,” he said. “Ubiquitous, opportunity-creating broadband and a resource-rich media capable of informing our civic dialogue are critically-important components of our future success as a people, and I intend to keep speaking about these challenges as a private citizen in the years ahead.

“It has been the highest honor to serve with my colleagues on the commission. I thank them all for their dedication, collegiality and friendship. I also owe an enormous debt to the commission staff. Their professionalism and dedication to the public interest stands as a model of government service.”
~ Deborah D. McAdams