Uncommon Candor

I’m sitting in a session on the FCC featuring current Democratic commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps, with former commissioner Gloria Tristani as moderator. I’m very impressed with the degree of candor that Commissioners Copps and Adelstein have expressed at this conference in mulitple sessions, on topics ranging from payola to the BellSouth/AT&T merger.

These two commissioners are probably the two most public interest oriented commissioners the FCC has seen in its seventy year history. For many reasons the FCC is a problematic agency, and I appreciate how Copps and Adelstein have been willing to frankly discuss some of the problems.

For instance, at a payola session yesterday Adelstein talked about how disappointed he was that the Commission hadn’t done its own investigation on the practice and had to rely on the research done by former NY Attorney General Elliott Spitzer. It seems like he knows he works in the sausage factory, and he’s willing to show us some of the gristle and bone.

And right now Tristani is talking about the pressure that media industry puts on the commissioners themselves. During the low-power FM proceeding she was told, in front of her staff, by the New Mexico broadcast lobby that if she voted for LPFM and ever wanted to run for office she could expect every broadcast station in the state to oppose her campaign.

I have to reflect that the temptation to sell out as a FCC commissioner must be strong. Former chair Michael Powell had a soft landing with a lucrative and cushy position with a private equity fund specializing in media properties after he left the FCC in 2005. Sucking up to the desires of the industries you regulate certainly has its privileges.

Now, I don’t mean to turn this into an FCC love-fest. I have significant issues with much of what the FCC does and how it regulates the airwaves. I do believe that the FCC exists primarily to support and benefit the industries it regulates, despite whatever the broadcast lobby likes to claim. At the FCC public interest has always been more of a cover than a true goal.

And with respect to the two Democratic commissioners, I am very opposed to Michael Copps’ zealousness for indecency enforcement, especially when the Commission dedicates more resources to that than to enforcing payola or other more harmful practices.

Nevertheless, without Copps’ and Adelstein’s dogged opposition to the Republican give-away campaign at the Commission we’d all be much worse off. Most tangibly, without them the AT&T-BellSouth merger would have been rubber-stamped without a single condition in support of the public interest, let alone network neutrality.

Technorati tag:


2 responses to “Uncommon Candor”

  1. WBIA Avatar

    You know that is BS, none of those conditions are worth a thing, and by far from enforable by the FCC. Even Martin’s slam against Copps’ and Adeilstein alerts to the same.

    As far as NN is concerned, the FCC hsa already established they will get involved as they did in the Madison River alledged consession. So what is the point for everyone wasting their time dealing with it.

    The previous SBC/AT&T – VZ/WCom merger conditions where just as worthless and nothing has been done to enforce those.

    All in all, Copps and Adelstein have more to say now that before, with both of their FCC jobs solid for now and a Democractic house and most likely Democratic admin coming in the next election. So, it will be interesting how many jabs they plan on taking in the coming year.

    The merger condtions are nothing but smoke and mirror deception for the duck and cover of “public interest” by the FCC.

  2. Paul Avatar

    “Bullshit” has many definitions, and I have to argue that the concession is meaningful. Primarily it’s politically meaningful because it represents AT&T’s concession that Net Neutrality exists and is definable.

    Even if the FCC’s ability or willingness to enforce NN is questionable, the real power of the concession is that it gives Congress greater will to pass stronger NN provisions as law.

    Admittedly, once we’re in the realm of merger conditions we’re talking about small battles in a big war. Nevetheless, would it be better to have the ATT/BellSouth merger simply be approved with no conditions whatsoever?

    And I really don’t get your dismissal of Copps and Adelstein. They’ve been critical and outspoken since joining the FCC, not only since the Democratic victory last November. I admit they’re far from perfect, but would you prefer two commissioners who simply sucked up to the industry they regulate?

    Any victory on behalf of the public interest at the FCC will always be small and nearly insignificant. The FCC is, like the ICC, EPA and SEC, a captured regulator.

    But, does that mean we don’t recognize and give some props when something positive happens?

    Certainly the anarchist side of me rejects regulatory gains and sees the whole political process as fundamentally corrupt. The pragmatist in me, however, looks at my internet connection and ISP account and hopes I’ll still be able to freely distribute my podcast. It’s an uneasy truce, but it’s not bullshit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *