Powell’s localism initiative under fire from Copps

FCC Chairman Michael Powell’s plan to establish a localism task force amounts to a “ready, fire, aim!” policy regarding the consequences of the commission’s decision to relax media ownership rules, according to Commissioner Michael Copps.

In a statement released on the heels of the chairman’s announcement of the task force, Copps criticized the establishment of the group as being “a day late and a dollar short.”

“It (the proposal) highlights the failures of the recent decision to dismantle ownership protections. To say that protecting localism was not germane to that decision boggles the mind. The ownership protections, as well as the other public interest protections that the commission has dismantled over the past years, are all designed to promote localism, diversity and competition,” Copps said in the statement.

“We should have heeded the calls from over two million Americans and so many members of Congress expressing concern about the impact of media concentration on localism and diversity before we rushed to a vote. We should have vetted these issues before we voted. Instead, we voted; now we are going to vet. This is a policy of ‘ready, fire, aim!’”

Copps criticized the fact that the question of localism will be studied after the fact and that the chairman has not staid the commission’s decision to relax ownership rules. While the task force studies localism, Copps asserted, there will be a rush to ownership consolidation, increased standardization and homogenization of programming, more indecency on the airwaves and fewer diverse views and less coverage of local issues.

“By refusing to stay our rules, we guarantee a rash of mergers, acquisitions and swaps that cannot be undone because the genie will be out of the bottle long before this new task force reports. While we study, big media conglomerates will gobble up still more local stations and licenses will be renewed without examining how stations are serving their local communities. While promoting low-power radio stations is a welcome step and one that I support, the real news is that the big media ‘Gold-Rush’ is still on.”

For more information, visit: www.fcc.gov.

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