FCC Commish Copps To Hold 2 New Public Forums, Chairman Powell Prefers the Internet

Democratic FCC Commissioner Michael Copps continues his quest to get more public input on the issue of media ownership rules. On Wednesday he announced two more public hearings to be held in March at the University of Washington in Seattle and at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

After Copps made his announcement, FCC Chair Michael Powell–who has been publicly critical of public forums, even though he’s conceded to attending two so far–released a statement saying that he was “enormously pleased” that the FCC received over 13,000 comments on the topic of media ownership. In the same statement Powell also pushed his view that technology renders public forums unnecessary, saying

“This record clearly demonstrates that in the digital age, you don’t need a 19th century whistle stop tour to hear from America.”

Apparently Powell doesn’t care about hearing from the 247 millions other Americans who either haven’t figured out how to navigate the FCC’s byzantine electronic commenting system, or who haven’t yet heard the news about media ownership rules review because they don’t peruse the business pages or the broadcast industry press (and who can blame them?).

Which leads me to again be a little critical of the fact that these public forums on media ownership are so far only being held at universities, which aren’t exactly comfortable stomping grounds for most people. I applaud Copps drive to actually hear from the public, but to make good on this he’s really going to have step outside of his own ivory towered comfort zone.

However, I am glad to hear Copps recognizing that the FCC might not be hearing from a lot of people whose very livelihood is directly affected by media ownership. In a speech at Fordham University, he said,

“It has been a revelation to me that there are media professionals with strong feelings about the downsides of consolidation for the American people who are afraid to speak for fear of retribution. I hear privately that speaking out on this issue would cost many people their careers. … I recognize that this presents challenges for a public proceeding, but so, too, does a climate of fear that chokes off needed input for important decisions.”

You can read PDFs of both Copps’ and Powell’s remarks:

Copps Press Release

Powell Statement






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