Commissioner michael copps

In a speech given last week, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps called for a new regime to review the public interest performance of broadcasters – suggesting that license renewal become a more rigorous exercise for radio and television operators.  In his address called "Getting Media Right, A Call to Action", given to the Columbia University School of Journalism, Copps specifically suggested a "Public Value Test" for broadcasters when they file their license renewals.  If the broadcaster passes the test, the broadcaster would get a renewal.  If the broadcaster did not pass – if it does not show that it has "earned" the right to "use the people’s airways" – then the licensee would get a one year probation period to prove that it should keep its license.  If it does not improve, then the license would be taken and given to "someone who will use it to serve the public interest."

So what would this Public Value Test look like?  The Commissioner suggested that the following factors would be reviewed: 

  1. A Meaningful Commitment to News and Public Affairs Programming – an increased commitment to news, local public affairs, election debates and issues oriented programming would be reviewed according to some quantitative benchmarks.
  2. Enhanced Disclosure – requiring broadcasters to provide more information about their programming performance, on the Internet, as the Commissioner believes that information in the public file is "laughable", and also requiring that the FCC review that information at renewal time
  3. Political Advertising Disclosure – requiring more information about the sponsors of political ads
  4. Reflecting Diversity – looking to increase the gender, ethnic and racial ownership of broadcast stations
  5. Community Discovery – requiring that broadcasters be required to, in some formal way, communicate with their communities to determine local programming needs and the interests of various groups within a station’s community
  6. Local and independent programming – requiring that broadcasters provide more local and independent programming instead of "homogenized music and entertainment from huge conglomerates – the Commissioner suggesting 25% of local programming being dedicated to local and independent programs.  More local PSAs too.
  7. Public Safety – requiring that all broadcasters have a plan to address emergencies and be either staffed during all hours of operation or be otherwise able to respond immediately to any local emergency.

 What’s likely to happen to these proposals?Continue Reading FCC Commissioner Copps Calls For Stricter Broadcast Station License Renewal Standards – Could It Happen?

On Thursday, the Obama administration appointed FCC Commissioner Michael Copps to be the Acting FCC Chairman until the administration selects its permanent Chairman, and that person is confirmed by the Senate.  As we’ve written, the rumors are that the permanent Chair will be Julius Genachowski, a former classmate of the President.  But, as far as we know (and according to the White House website’s list of appointments made so far), that appointment has not yet been formally made and sent to the Senate Commerce Committee for the initiation of hearings on the qualifications of the nominee.  Commissioner Copps is the most senior of the remaining three Commissioners (Democrat Jonathan Adelstein and Republican Robert McDowell being the other two remaining Commissioners), and has been an outspoken advocate of more stringent regulation of the public interest performance of broadcasters (see, for instance, our posts here and here).  What will his appointment as interim FCC chairman mean for broadcasters?

Initially, it would seem reasonable to assume that the Acting Chair will be principally occupied with the DTV transition, as least for the next few weeks, and perhaps longer if the pending legislation to delay the transition deadline until June 12 is adopted.  It would also seem reasonable to assume that the Commission, at least for the short term, will not be tackling major regulatory initiatives (like the localism proceeding), until the permanent FCC Chair has taken office.  One of the initial Executive Orders that was issued by the Obama administration was to freeze the actions of administrative executive agencies until the political appointments made by the administration have been confirmed and taken their places, so that the new administration is not saddled by regulations that don’t fit with its overall political agenda.  While many in DC believe that this order does not apply to an "independent agency" like the FCC (which technically does not report to the administration, but instead to Congress), it would be reasonable to assume that the spirit of the order would be followed by the FCC.Continue Reading Commissioner Michael Copps Named As Acting FCC Chairman – What Does It Mean for Broadcasters?