While FCC chairman Powell is the clear goat in the media regulation wars, misreading congress AND the public in his arrogant push to deregulation, this article by Jube Shiver in the L.A. Times says Federal Communications Commissioner Michael J. Copps is one of the heroes:
- Short on funds, the Democrat crisscrossed the country, often unaccompanied by colleagues or staff, and begged universities to give him facilities to hold town meetings to debate media ownership policy. The FCC’s Republican chairman, Michael K. Powell, had stopped participating in the events, dismissing them as a “19th century whistle-stop tour.” Publicity remained scant.
Over time, however, Copps’ message began to resonate – and with folks far beyond the usual consumer advocates who had long warned of the dangers of media consolidation.
Copps’ crusade, for instance, caught the ear of the National Rifle Assn. and the Parents Television Council, a group fighting “to restore family-friendly” programming. It also helped galvanize small, independent TV broadcasters, which feared they might buckle if much larger competitors were free to purchase even more stations.
By the fourth town hall meeting on March 31 – a forum in Durham, N.C., attended by country singer Tift Merritt, Rep. David E. Price (D-N.C.), Rep. Richard M. Burr (R-N.C.) and FCC Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein – Copps had forged an unlikely liberal-conservative coalition.
….Last week, their strategy paid off.
The House passed a measure that would keep TV broadcasters from owning stations that reached more than 35% of the nation, rolling back the new 45% cap just approved by the FCC. The matter is set to be taken up next on the floor of the Senate, where momentum also is building to dismantle at least some of the FCC’s handiwork.
….the sudden burst of political energy has already made a genuine cause out of issues that, not long ago, seemed too arcane for the general public to care much about.
….The media ownership battle represents one of the rare public uprisings over a matter that doesn’t involve a pocketbook issue such as taxes or cable TV rates. Conservatives and liberals alike have found common ground in attacking media giants such as Viacom Inc. and News Corp., branding the firms as remote, uncaring and greedy.
“My sense,” said Gene Kimmelman, director of the Washington office of Consumers Union, “is that what people didn’t realize is that there is a fundamental public belief in this country that the media is biased and unfair and can’t be trusted.”
Some also suggest that the outrage has stemmed from a feeling among consumers that they were being marginalized by Washington policymakers eager to overhaul media ownership rules without their input.
“I’m proud to hold this important public hearing to solicit the views of North Carolinians on media ownership,” Burr told the overflow audience in Durham in a pointed rebuke of Powell’s decision to abandon the town hall sessions. “Today’s hearing and the others in the various states provide a welcome change from the predictable lineup of Washington insiders who traditionally dominate these discussions.”
Powell was simply outmaneuvered after waving off the concerns of the public, interest groups, and ultimately Congress, as unimportant – his political acumen has been proved wanting.