Copps sets stage of media ownership review

FCC commissioner Michael Copps set the stage for an examination of federal broadcast ownership policy Nov. 2 when he told a gathering of scholars assembled in Washington, D.C., for a workshop on media ownership that the nation has moved in the wrong direction in recent years when it comes to broadcast localism, diversity in media ownership and competition.

“Our broadcast media is less local, less diverse, and less competitive,” he said, adding that “the tsunami of media ownership that has flooded our media environment for the past two decades has kicked the traces out from under all three of these essential qualities.”

In opening remarks launching the agency’s 2010 quadrennial review of media ownership rules, Copps told the scholars that history has “provided us with a golden opportunity now to tackle long-standing issues.” Warning that such chances don’t often occur, Copps said he plans to do everything he can to “realize the promise of this moment.”

Pointing to shuttered newsrooms, laid off journalists, downgraded investigative reporting and nationalized, homogenized music and art, Copps said the consequences of the existing approach to media ownership became apparent long before the beginning of the downturn in the economy.

Copps challenged the gathered scholars to make examination of these media ownership issues an “urgent priority.” He also asked his fellow commissioners to “move full speed ahead” on pending proceedings aimed at tackling minority and female broadcast ownership issues, localism and public interest.

Beyond these issues, Copps identified new factors that may impact future public policy regarding broadcast ownership. “Does the Internet change the ownership equation and, if so, how?” he asked. Private equity ownership of broadcast outlets also complicates the issue of safeguarding the public airwaves, he said. “Is it really the intent of the law to permit banks to own broadcast stations?” he asked.