Copps says Powell’s ownership cap hearing deadline too soon

Michael Copps, a Democratic FCC commissioner who has questioned the Republican juggernaut to change media ownership rules, charged that Chairman Michael Powell’s June 2nd voting deadline for hearings on the subject forces the issue without sufficient deliberation or public comment.

In an interview on Washington, D.C., radio station WAMU-FM, Copps said any FCC decision made on June 2nd would be based on “paltry” information without sufficient public debate. He said neither the FCC nor the news media have done a good job making sure the public is aware of what’s at stake with the ownership issue.

“I have yet to see a network news item on it,” Copps said of an issue that’s fundamentally important to “the virtues we prize: localism, diversity and competition.”

Also appearing on the program with Copps was Media Access Project president Andrew Schwartzman, who echoed the commissioner’s charges that news media outlets are failing to tell the American public what’s at stake with the proposed rule changes.

Schwartzman noted that KPNX-TV in Phoenix, a Gannett Co. outlet, was invited to participate in a recent media-ownership forum in the city but declined, and that the station, along with Gannett’s Arizona Republic newspaper, didn’t report the forum at all.

“When a state attorney general and a visiting FCC commissioner appear in front of several hundred people, I would think that is news,” Schwartzman said.

In a response to Schwartzman’s on-air comments, a Gannett public relations representative released a statement that she said should have been read aloud at the event. The statement said Gannett had filed comments directly with the FCC on the issue and supported repealing rules against cross ownership between newspapers and broadcast outlets.

Spokeswoman Tara Connell said Gannett had covered the media ownership issue earlier and minimized the importance of its Phoenix outlets not covering the forum. “That our TV station and newspaper chose not to cover one forum is hardly undercovering,” she said. She said Gannett has no mechanism for making its outlets cover issues they “don’t necessarily consider newsworthy.”

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