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FCC member rips colleagues over consolidation

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WASHINGTON (Hollywood Reporter) - Democratic FCC commissioner Michael Copps on Monday blasted his agency for its role in the "Clear Channelization" of American radio, charging that the Republican-controlled panel has shortchanged the public by giving the go-ahead to further media consolidation.


"We are skirting dangerously close to taking the public interest out of the public airwaves," Copps said at the Future of Music Coalition's policy summit, a conference of musicians, record industry executives, lawmakers and civil liberties activists.



Copps was one of two dissenters in the five-member commission's vote last June to ease regulations on media ownership. That ruling was motivated by the notion that the strict regulations in place -- intended to protect against monopoly of the airwaves -- became obsolete with the proliferation of such information and entertainment sources as the Internet and cable.


Copps said the Federal Communications Commission is moving in the wrong direction by allowing diverse perspectives and local interests and talent to be trumped by the homogenizing forces of media giants that dominate many of the nation's media markets.


"Step by step, rule by rule, bit by bit, (this commission) has allowed the dismantling of a whole variety of public interest protections and flashed the green light for more consolidation," Copps said.


He singled out the "postcard renewal" process for licensing of radio stations as one of the main failings of the FCC in protecting the public interest from corporate homogenization, stressing that stations should have to provide sufficient evidence that they serve local interests and urging people in the audience to file complaints with the FCC if their local stations fail to do so.


The FCC has created a localism task force that holds hearings nationwide to better assess broadcasters' service to their communities. It is an initiative Copps had been pushing for since before the media ownership ruling and regrets that it only started recently.


Now that the program is in action, he wants to ensure that the results are taken seriously. "If I find out that we are pell-mell renewing licenses without having reference to the record that we amassed or we're not really being any more rigorous than we have been about it, then I'm going to make considerable noise about it as much as I can," he said in an interview after his speech.


Copps also wants to see more independent programming on TV, suggesting that the indie share of primetime hours should be 25%-35%. He said a proposed rule-making on independent programming could be put out for public comment in fairly short order, something Center for Creative Voices in Media, the WGA and the Coalition for Program Diversity have been championing.


"Anything with the name 'independent' on it seems to be on the endangered species list," Copps said. "But there is so much more creativity across America than the lowest common denominator entertainment from Madison Avenue."


Reuters/Hollywood Reporter


© Copyright Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved. The information contained In this news report may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Reuters Ltd.

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