Copps repeats call for diversity, meaningful renewals


FCC Commissioner Michael Copps addressed a RainbowPUSH Coalition event, calling for greater diversity of media ownership and stronger public interest requirements for broadcasters. He wants to use the quadrennial review and separate proceedings to move toward both goals.

Copps told the Telecommunications and International Affairs Symposium that one of his first moves as Acting Chairman was to get the ball rolling on diversity again. He said that studies on the subject where pigeon-holed by previous FCC administrations – he expects they will have a more meaningful existence this time around. He is particularly interested in cobbling together a legal foundation for programs aimed at bringing more socially-disadvantaged businesses into the mix, so that it will survive court scrutiny.

He also once again cited his disapproval of the “postcard” license renewal process, saying, “There is no reason on God’s green earth why the Commission shouldn’t go back to having some guidelines to make sure stations are consulting with their audiences on what kinds of programming people would like to see and that news and information aren’t the first thing to go on the chopping block when ownership changes hands. I’ve been begging the broadcasters’ representatives in Washington to join this discussion for years. They refused.”

He even tied in the recent sniffing around being done by FCC broadband spectrum hunters that has led some of them into television airspace. “Maybe they shouldn’t be surprised that some folks are asking if there might not be better uses for their spectrum. I have not joined that call, but neither do I think that more of the same will get them by. “

Copps pointed out that these issues would be part of the Quadrennial Review, but also reminded that both are currently part of focused ongoing FCC proceedings, so there was no need to wait until next year to address either topic.

RBR-TVBR observation: Sometimes it seems like Copps believes stations are in the business of driving audiences away. Of course, the opposite is true, and one of the most difficult business achievements in the entertainment world is getting people to tune in to your station.

One of the core principles of broadcasting is to use as many avenues as possible, whatever it takes, to precisely find out “what kinds of programming people would like to see” or hear. Countless dollars are spent on all kinds of research to answer this question.

We can guarantee one thing: Stations won’t find out what their audience wants by convening a panel of well-meaning civic-minded local residents. If the panel attracts the type of earnest individual who is concerned about just where the town aldermen plan to site the fire hydrants in the new townhouse development and thinks that the local broadcast stations should be on top of the story, all the panel will do is drive the audience to the nearest medium that actually provides entertainment. If you don’t believe us, just check out the microscopic ratings of your local cable access channel.