A Look at Copps

The LA Times takes a look at FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, for a time the lone Democrat on the Commission, who is taking Chairman Powell head-on over Powell’s public stance in favor of loosening media ownership restrictions. Copps favors a much more in-depth and public review of current ownership rules, rather than the expedited backroom approach Powell seems to want.

While I’m pleased to see Copps willing to be so contrarian in an agency not typically so prone to real dissent, I am a bit concerned over this tactic:

“In anticipation of the February hearing, Copps is trying to spur public support by linking his two pet issues: media consolidation and indecency on television and radio.”

Although Copps is correct in aruing that “media consolidation and corporate ownership of television and radio stations have accelerated the ‘race to the bottom’ in offering sex and violence,” controls on so-called ‘indecency’ are typically hard to enforce and are used to squelch unpopular speech (such as fining community radio KBOO over a feminist rapper’s answer to mainstream rap’s mysogyny) as often as they’re used to “protect” children from harsh programming.

Even so, the quick-buck syndication mentality of the likes of Clear Channel is doubtlessly the primary culprit behind suffocating tidal wave of no-talent frat-boys who’ve turned morning radio into a barnyard cesspool of racist, mysogynist, homophobic and jingoistic drivel. Sleaze sells, and cheap-shot middle-school humor that panders to young whit men sells even better. That’s the kind of easy money short change driven by consolidation.

However, the crap on the airwaves is just the symptom. Attempts to regulate ‘indecent’ programming on its own aren’t likely to be successful. Instead, they’d just descend into legal bickering over hair-thin definitions that would only encourage programmers to walk the line in the sand.

The disease is rampant industry consolidation triggered by conglomerate-friendly reregulation.

But if calling attention to the connection between the drivel on our airwaves and who owns the companies broadcasting it gets enough people’s panties in a bunch to start really questioning media ownership and the way it’s regulated outside the public sphere, then I guess that’s not too bad. I’m just always afraid that only the symptom is going to get attention, and we’ll end up with a big crack down on ‘indecency’ that catches truly challenging political programming and community radio in the nets intended to snare Clear Channel and Infinity.






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