Copps welcomes, others question diversity panel


FCC Acting Chairman knows to strike while the iron is hot, and sees that when it comes to prioritizing action on increasing media ownership diversity, it is red hot right now. But Free Radio Coalition Founder Roger Hedgecock thinks that the panel itself lacks diversity. The panel’s composition and a brief description of its mission can be found here:

 “What has changed is not so much the composition or the bent of the Committee, but the priority your issues will have at the new FCC,” said Copps in welcoming the panel. “You will be heard. The sad truth is that these issues simply haven’t been the priority they should have been around here for the past eight years.  It’s time to turn the page. We are turning the page.”

And make no mistake, Copps wants to strike. “And we must act quickly. The window of reform has been pried open, but history teaches us that it is impossible to know how long we will have before it closes again.” He then asked for recommendations within four months.

He also said that those who equate righting a long-term wrong – finding an appropriate amount of spectrum for all aspects of society – has nothing to do with imposing speech restrictions on anybody and is not in any way a backdoor attempt to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. “Those who claim that promoting diversity and addressing the woeful effects of past discrimination are the equivalent of bringing back the Fairness Doctrine understand neither the Fairness Doctrine nor, more importantly, the lack of opportunity minorities and women have when it comes to owning and operating the enterprises that allow us to communicate with one another.”
To Hedgecock, the panel is wall-to-wall liberal activists “The idea that we should have a diversity of ownership implies that we would have a diversity of people on the committee,” he said according to Fox News. “The committee is a totally one-dimensional group of activists.

Fox also quoted Media Research Center’s Seton Motley, who asked, “Why is it the government’s job to do a bean count on who owns what? I would think the only color that matters in business is green.” Motley does believe that this is in fact a back door attempt to wedge the Fairness Doctrine back into existence, in spirit at least, and that with Democrats in control of the White House, Congress and the FCC 8th Floor their plans just might go somewhere.

Watchdog Andrew Schwartzman of Media Access Project noted that a similarly-composed panel convened under Kevin Martin’s watch and operated without controversy. He also disputed the wall-to-wall liberal claim. Many significant corporations are represented, as are NAB and NCTA.

RBR/TVBR observation: No matter how well-intentioned the FCC may be, there is only so much that can be done to increase minority ownership. Most observers from all quarters seem to think one of the best moves is reinstatement of the minority tax certificate, which is beyond the FCC’s jurisdiction. The bottom line is that the FCC cannot order a licensee to sell to a minority or a woman. The most that can be done is to set up rules that nudge minority ownership upwards. We’ll see how far they get with that over the next couple of years.